The Windsor hum mystery: 'It sounded like 15 trucks around our house'

Noise has been plaguing community for decades

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Derick Hutchinson

WINDSOR, Ontario - Residents of a Windsor, Ontario, neighborhood are on edge because of a mysterious humming noise that hasn't been identified.

The Local 4 Defenders took a look at the case of the mysterious hum.

The persistent noise has been compared to an idling truck or the distant rumbling of thunder. It's plaguing many people who live across the Detroit River.

Residents have dubbed the noise the "Windsor hum." It's mysteriously heard on the Canadian side of the river, but very few, if any, complaints have been made from the Detroit side.

Local 4 Defender Karen Drew crossed the border to try to track down the mysterious noise and see what residents and scientists are doing about the issue.

The noise has been plaguing the community for decades. 

"It sounded like 15 trucks around our house," resident Debbie MacDonnel said. "Like big transports."

MacDonnel said she loves her home and yard in Windsor, but she didn't expect to live with so much noise.

"We had just built the house, and a couple weeks in, we started feeling the windows shake, and, you know, couldn't figure out what was going on," MacDonnel said.

MacDonnel isn't the only person complaining about the hum. A Facebook group dedicated to the Windsor hum has more than 2,000 members, all posting when they hear the strange noise.

"The sound that I was hearing was a low pulsing, almost like thunder," resident Mike Provost said.

"Why does it bug you?" Karen asked.

"For instance, the air conditioner, can you stand that 24/7?" Provost asked. "The constant, steady buzz or hum -- it never goes away. It's always there."

Provost runs the Facebook page and records daily the sounds he heard from his west Windsor backyard. He has a makeshift laboratory in his yard, with three different recording devices placed in different locations.

Provost also makes daily logs about what he hears, marking down the temperature, wind speed and other factors going on that day. He then inputs the data into his computer. He said he's been doing it for years.

"This is all the people and the times they posted," Provost said. "

He keeps track of his neighbors' comments. He let Karen listen to one of the recordings, and although she could hear a faint buzz, the noise was difficult to decipher.

"The hum is still there, although it certainly didn't have the same frequency that it did in its heyday, and it doesn't have the same intensity," University of Windsor professor Colin Novak said.

Novak was assigned to study the hum.

"Because it's a cross-border issue, that's when the federal government became involved," Novak said.

He and his team started their study in 2013 with sophisticated sound recording devices operating 24/7.

"One morning we did get an alert and we went and checked the data and it was definitely the characteristics of the hum," Novak said. "It would sound like a big truck or even a train engine parked outside of your house, idling out in the street. So it would have this low frequency rumble to the point where it could even cause your windows to rattle a little bit."

He shared his recordings, but the noise was difficult to hear. Where is the sound coming from?

"Other people thought it was wind turbines," Novak said. "Some of the more realistic theories were it could be from the salt mines."

Many people, including Novak, point to Zug Island, where U.S. Steel has a plant.

"We never did find that smoking gun, but through extensive analysis -- what sources of noise are on the island -- the one source that could potentially induce this type of noise with this much energy and at this frequency would be the blast furnaces," Novak said.

Security is tight around the island. Gates and barricades keep away the public.

"Did you ever ask to go on the island?" Karen asked.

"There was a request through the federal government for cooperation, and from what I've been told, no, we would not be permitted to go within the gates," Novak said.

The Defenders put in a request to U.S. Steel for an interview about the mysterious hum, but the request was denied.

"Really, unless some researchers have access to the site and can do a thorough scientific investigation, I think we all are going to be wondering," Novak said.

The mystery of the hum is ongoing.

"As a scientist, of course, it intrigues me," Novak said.

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