The Case of the Deaf Diplomats

It's perplexing, that's what it is. In fact, it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma — that sound in Havana that is said to have sickened or deafened diplomats there. No one can explain what it is. Here — you listen to it, and see if you can identify it.

But before you listen, let me get lawyered up. If you get sick, I sure don't want to be responsible. Actually, in case you haven't been reading the news reports, let me bring you up to date.

It started almost a year ago, with some odd reports from Havana. U.S. and Canadian diplomats, as well as staff and family members were complaining about various symptoms including nausea, headaches, dizziness, and hearing loss. The presumed attacks fit into a context of harassment of American diplomats in Cuba, who report vehicle vandalization, constant surveillance, and home break-ins.

No one could pinpoint the cause, or exactly what was happening. Some diplomats and embassy workers claimed they were attacked late at night while sleeping in their homes. Diplomats are required to rent houses from the Cuban government. The sound was sometimes described as being deafeningly loud — a buzzing sound like a dentist's drill, or a scraping sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. Some people claiming injury did not report hearing any sounds at all. Was the real culprit some sophisticated weapon emitting energy above the human hearing range?

The Cuban government, unusually accommodating, allowed the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to travel to Cuba to investigate the sounds. They did not find any devices capable of producing an acoustic attack. The investigators left Cuba without an answer.

Was it a sonic attack, being used to harass? Or was it meant to harm? Or were the symptoms unfortunate byproducts of some covert spying device? Was it a sonic attack launched by the Cuban government, perhaps in response to the Trump administration's frosty attitude toward the Communist regime? Or was it some third party, trying to disrupt relations between the U.S. and Canada, and Cuba? Could it be Iran? Venezuela? North Korea? A rogue Cuban faction?

Skeptics might be inclined to chalk it up to mass hysteria. There were loud noises, and someone complained that it was "deafening" and that started the ball rolling with all sorts of imagined symptoms and medical complications. But it was all in their minds.

Or was it? At least 22 Americans, as well as some Canadians, are apparently medically confirmed to be affected. CNN reports that at least one diplomat will have to wear a hearing aid from now on. And CBS News reports that a U.S. doctor diagnosed diplomats with mild traumatic brain injuries with likely damage to the central nervous system. In September, the U.S. withdrew most of it diplomatic staff from Cuba. For its part, Cuba now claims the sound was from cicadas and crickets, and claims that loud insect noises can produce hearing loss.

If the culprit was indeed some ultrasonic energy weapon, then I can't demonstrate it for you, and you wouldn't want to audition it anyway. But we do have an audio file of the audible sound that the diplomats have described. Insects? A sound merely intended to annoy? Or the audible byproduct of brain-scrambling ultrasonic energy? No one knows.

You can listen to the file here. If you dare.

VidioCat_80's picture

I have heard this sound before. I don't know if this is the problem in Cuba but compact fluorescent light bulbs or regular fluorescent bulbs can make this sound. I heard this high pitch sound and it was very annoying until I tracked it down to a compact fluorescent light bulb and replaced it. If you have several lights emitting this sound it could be more than annoying.

VidioCat_80's picture

A power transformer can also make this sound. Many large buildings have step down power transformers. A lot of electronic equipment also have step down transformers and power converters that could be generating this sound. I am assuming that this possibility was checked out or was it?

funambulistic's picture

... my tinnitus. I would not want to wish that on anyone!