Thousands of people around the world are hearing a strange 'Hum' - we speak to the scientist working out why

Dr Glen MacPherson works in Vancouver (Rex)

Tens of thousands of people around the world hear ‘The Hum’ – a mysterious, low, rumbling noise which can be so intense it keeps people awake at night.

‘The Hum’ has been featured on the X-Files, and became a tabloid news story in Britain, with people in Bristol claiming they suffered nosebleeds from a mysterious humming noise.

Yahoo News spoke to the scientist is closing in on its source – with an online ‘Hum Map’ where 17,000 sufferers have come forward to talk about their experiences.

The World Hum Map (Rex)

Glenn MacPherson, who works in Vancouver, has several theories about the source of ‘the Hum’, and is a sufferer himself (people who can hear it refer to themselves as ‘Hum Hearers’).

MacPherson told Yahoo News, ‘Many of the people who report are quite serious, everyday, and responsible people, including scientists, doctors and so on.’

‘We are working relentlessly, albeit slowly, on the problem.’

What causes The Hum?

A cyclist rides over an empty, but fully open, Clifton Suspension Bridge, in Bristol (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Previous reports have suggested that the noise might be caused by mating fish, submarines, or wind farms – but people report hearing it in dozens of countries, and in locations far from the sea.

Other theories include the idea that it’s caused by radio waves – or by something physical in the bodies of ‘Hum Hearers’, who tend to be male and over 40.

MacPherson says that many people who hear ‘the Hum’ have been quite emotional at finding they were not alone.


MacPherson says, ‘We now have over 17,000 Hum Map points. Three young programmers are releasing a tool for in-depth examination of the data.’

MacPherson started hearing ‘The Hum’ in 2012, and began his investigations – working from a previous research paper by scientist Guy Deming.

He said, ‘I was the only person in the house who could hear it; my family said they didn’t know what I was talking about.’

‘My first clue that something unusual was happening came with the realisation that the sound didn’t fade away, like plane noises typically do. One night after the sound started I stepped outside the house. Nothing.’

MacPherson built a ‘Deming box’ to rule out the idea that it was caused by ‘VLF’ radio waves, creating a shielded metal box to block radio signals.

The Deming box (Supplied)

But inside it, he still heard the noise.

In a blog post, he said, ‘I entered the box at about 1:40 am and and soon as I lay down quietly inside it, the Hum was there, as loud as ever.’

The history of ‘The Hum’ in Britain

In the Seventies, the noise made headlines as ‘the Bristol Hum’ in Britain.

More recently, the ominous noise resurfaced in Hythe in 2013, with local woman Val Caachi saying, ‘You can’t ignore it – it’s pulsing in your head. It sounds ridiculous but it does keep you awake all night.’

Outbreaks of ‘The Hum’ can seriously affect people’s health – with many saying that it causes long-term sleeplessness.

One victim said, ‘I have been having heart palpitations since i started hearing this I have been for medical check ups but all results have come back normal. I do not smoke, drink or take drugs.’

Sufferers have also said they suffer a fear that they are going mad, as even their own family members cannot hear the same noise.

The theories

Dr MacPherson says he now has three main theories as to what is causing it.

One is that it’s geological, something happening all around the world – although he’s at pains to point out that a recent French study involving undersea rumbles has nothing to do with the Hum.

Another is that it’s caused by human activity in some way – possibly from the rumble of transport around the world.

Dr MacPherson says, ‘The Hum might be the grand accumulation of anthropogenic low-frequency sound and infrasound – freeways, air traffic, marine traffic, industry, and so on.

‘I don’t think this is very likely, given that I perceive the same Hum everywhere I travel.’

Dr Glen MacPherson (Supplied)

But the most likely is that it’s within the bodies of suffereers, McPherson says – although it’s still unclear what’s causing it.

Dr MacPherson says that the current theory he’s pursuing is that it’s ‘an internally generated perception of noise, distinct from tinnitus.

‘The sub-theories here are that the Hum might arise internally after some types of exposure, perhaps from some types of medications or perhaps from some types of EM energy (as opposed to being caused directly from EM energy such as VLF radio waves).’

Dr MacPherson says that he believes that ‘the Hum’ could be solved quickly if a major lab came on board.

He says that increasing awareness will help, but says, ‘People get so many things wrong. For example, the Wikipedia page on the Hum is a complete shambles, and every time somebody tries to go in and edit it, those changes are instantly reversed.’

But he’s confident that with a little more funding, the mystery can be solved at last.

He says, ‘We need to push hard on the advocacy so that the phenomenon is fully normalized, and so that a working scientist will take this on. As soon as we can get a major university or private lab involved, this will be solved very quickly.’

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes