Hunting the source of the mysterious Windsor Hum

The Windsor Hum is a weird thing — a low-frequency buzzing that drives some people in Windsor, Ontario crazy and, yet, doesn't seem to be heard by the Americans who live closest to its source, an island crowded with industrial facilities. As part of a new feature exploring environmental mysteries, Kim Tingley looks at how grantees of the Canadian government are attempting to identify the exact cause of the Windsor Hum, and how an American company is getting away with banning them from the island.


  1. If the Canadians have any self-respect, they’ll set up a couple of ten-story high speakers and blast Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go on a continuous loop straight at the US border.

      1. There are a lot of literalist, hammerheaded, ABC-darian types on here, lately.  It’s not the SONG, it’s the “we’re gonna do back to you 1/1,000,000,000,000th of the bad shit that you do to us and everyone else” factor.

        1. I’ll take all the abuse you can dish for just one opportunity to mock George Michael.

          1. Nope.  Teenage Americans will line up at the border to listen.  It HAS to be George Michael.

          2. If you’re willing not just to broadcast Beibz’s “music”, but to actually cast the homunculus himself with a trebuchet, we’ve got a deal.

    1. The border is a river with tall buildings on both sides.  That’s not a good idea.

          1. Hmmm.  Then those speakers could end up in my backyard.  I don’t like that proposition.  Then again, we have no technology to move any mass at c.

    1.  We’ve got a faint, but constant, tik-tik-tik-tik sound at 16/4 time in our basement. We finally tracked it down to the old cable-compliant cathode-ray tube Sanyo television in the basement (when it’s turned off).

  2. Sounds like mysterious high power machinery overseen by a shadowy scientific research group, perhaps built over an inter dimensional tear deep within the earth, but it will probably just turn out to be the pipe organ of a church.

  3. Is this one of those “don’t notice until somebody mentions it” things? Perhaps the ‘murcans just haven’t been properly perceptibly prompted.

  4. I must be getting old but I remember when you could get a Windsor Hum from HRH from five pounds sterling.


    An induction furnace to heat steel is basically a 60Hz multi-Megawatt subwoofer… Depending on how they regulate the power to the inductor (vari-frequency, resistive, HF chopper) you could get all kinds of beat frequencies.

    1. What’s worse is that the people who buy those things tend to blast transition metal 24/7 without regard for the neighbors.

  6. This is a good mystery. I suspect both an internal and an external source may be involved with one of them being inaudible on its own. The best source for a wide variety of material concerning audiometry is Simon Fraser University. Their CDROM handbook was recently revised and republished. 

  7. How ameanable to a crowdsourced direction finding is this? if we plotted the radial circles over each other, wouldn’t the ‘centroid’ in some sense narrow the location down? Could it be made even more directional by suitably baffled receivers?

    Giant canadian reflecting parabolic mirrors being build as I type…

    1.  suitably baffled receivers 
      The receivers are already quite suitably baffled, thank you. It’s actively pursuing a state of nonbafflement that’s the challenge at hand.

      (as always, h/t to Sir Terry Pratchett, in this case Commander Vimes in “The Truth”)

  8. Seems like these regional “hums” are kind of a thing.  Taos NM (USA) is somewhat famous for a “hum” that only some people seem to be able to hear (not to mention that it appears unrecordable via a wide variety of audio equipment).  To those that can hear it, it purportedly causes a whole host of malicious health effects.  To everyone else, well… abso-fricking-lutely nothing.

    Batshit craziness, or downed ufo vibrating away under the surface of the earth? 

    Your call!

    1. Dunno anything about Taos, but I used to live in Windsor, and there is nothing imaginary about the Windsor hum.  It’s quite loud at times.  The first few times I heard it I thought there was a truck idling outside my house.

    2.  Sorry, I’ll stop over and turn it off. Can’t imagine how I left that running ….

    1. it’s also an extremely dangerous place. What people don’t realize is that the island is made up of a ‘coke battery’ – essentially where they make the molten steel.

      Sounds familiar.

  9.  Let me assure you that to get access to the roof of the coke battery, or to the close proximity of the coke oven doors (most dangerous places at plant) at the US Steel plant you need about 1 hour lecture about safety (followed by a short quiz, so they have alibi that they lectured you and that you were not sleeping, in case of a mishap), standard issue steel-toe boots, helmet, gloves, goggles, flame retardant clothes (standard issue for workers at a steel plant, everyone wears them) and a CO monitoring equipment in some places. You might be asked to wear a light respirator (like painters do when spraying paint)

    The same goes for blast furnace or steelmaking convertor. No respirator needed there.

    I know, I have visited a blast furnace, convertor and a coke battery during operation on several US Steel plants.

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