by Mark Morford
“Me, I'm all about the furtive mysteries, the bizarre phenomena no one can quite explain, all flavors of tantalizing magic that make science and the rational mind twitch and hiccup, then shrug and think surely someone, somewhere must have a simple explanation, even though no one really does.
Whale songs? Dark energy? Pyramids? Quantum physics? Oddly curved Polish trees? Newt Gingrich? Mystical million-year-old cave paintings by the lost tribes of French-Indian Trepanning Podiatrists? Obvious. But I also adore the lesser-known and the seemingly meaningless mysteries, the countless smallish, transitory tales of OMG WTF scattered about the human psychodrama that seem to point to something larger and weirder, something more deeply tattooed into the collective subconscious, but which we're simply unable to understand at this glitchy phase of human evolution. That sort of stuff makes my eyelashes curl. In a good way.
One of these items flitted over the newswires recently, a story about a mysterious phenomenon plaguing a small town somewhere you've never traveled, gladly beyond any experience. It's a tiny English village called Woodland, in Durham County, where not 300 English humblefolk live, many of them reporting the same issue, the same confounding woe, and nearly each and every one going just a little bit insane because of it. The townspeople are complaining about headaches, fatigue, lack of sleep. They are reporting unhappy pets, unsettled dreams, a slight but palpable freaking of the hell out. (More than a few are also immensely annoyed by all the media attention aimed their humble way right now, but never mind that now).
It's all due to a strange, deep vibration, a town-wide hum akin to the throb of a car engine; it occurs every night, all night, waking the locals, rattling their bedframes, vibrating their mattresses and throbbing their bones. And not in the good way. This odd mystery is known as the Hum (capital H for creepy effect, thank you) and it's been going on for months. The locals do not know what it is. They do not know why it is. Also, not everyone can hear it. But most of them can. Which is neither here nor there, unless it is.
There are no factories or government facilities nearby. There is no rumbly train station 10 miles just over there, no giant Wal-Mart distribution center, quietly churning up the bones of five million Chinese sweatshop laborers deep in the dank basements of its massive and ruthless heart. It's just the humble little town, same as it ever was. Except for the throb. "In certain areas of the house you can hear it more loudly. It is definitely from outside, it's in the air, all around, very faint," said one Marylin Grech, 57, a retired store detective. "It vibrates through the house. Sometimes we'll be in bed and it vibrates right through our bed, like a throbbing." "And not in a good way," she unfortunately did not add.
Thing is, the Hum is far from an isolated incident. It has happened before, in other towns in various parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand and the US, over the last 40 years. It happened most famously in the '70s in Bristol, where a thousand people went mildly nuts because of it. So famous is the Hum that it was even mentioned in a storyline on "The X-Files" way back in the 1920s or whatever, so you know it must be cool.
Everyone thinks they know what the Hum must be. Surely it's a water system. Surely it's some sort of mining operation nearby. Surely it's the government's sinister HAARP experiment, or some other blandly evil plot to disrupt the ionic sonosphere and disable the vibrational codification matrix of the sublingual preconscious plane. I mean, duh. Following its initial report on this most pressing matter, The Telegraph newspaper went so far as to send a cheeky reporter and cheeky video dude to investigate further and perhaps catch the Hum in action. Of course, nothing could be heard by either mate, because that's just the nature of cheeky British media. "Ho hum," they reported, mildly amusingly.
Still, the Hum persists. For now. It could very well have something to do with the abandoned mineshafts nearby. It could very well be 10 billion red army ants marching to fight the black army ants across town every night, beating tiny little war drums. But nothing really explains all the weirdly similar incidents around the globe. You'd think someone would have found a good answer by now. Scully, maybe. No luck.
Here's a fun aspect: If you read the comments to the Telegraph story - hell, if you scan a few of the comments people posted on my Facebook page, for that matter - you will discover numerous people complaining of the exact same infuriating Hum, in their own towns, their own midnight dreamgasms, their own throbbing heads. Turns out the Hum is sort of oddly universal. Hmmm. Or rather, hum.
It is possible it's a form of mass hysteria, the power of suggestion, a "hear it once and you can convince yourself you're hearing it always" sort of thing, like a mosquito's midnight whine, or perhaps Justin Beiber. Or it could be the mind tricking you, amplifying the silence to a deafening roar. It's also possible you should not care in the slightest about any of this because you've got better things to care about, like work and porn and sunshine. Off you go, humming a merry tune. Me, I'm leaning into the weird little fire, and laughing. I'm going toward the slippery and the strange, because that's where the juice is. It's always possible such phenomena are easily answerable, something simple and clean and a tiny bit stupid. Often that's true. Sometimes it's not.
We think we know so much. For every answer and breakthrough, a hundred more questions unpeel and spin off into the ether, beckoning us to follow. Maybe the Hum is just the Earth itself, doing what it's always done, vibrating low and deep, singing its timeless tune, occasionally reaching a pitch baffled bipeds can barely hear. Maybe it's the shift of the planet itself, the poles calmly realigning for the giant 2012 metaconscious whoopjamboree. Do you think you know what the Hum is? Do you have a tantalizing theory? You are probably wrong. Just like everyone else. Isn't that fantastic?”