"Windsor Hum": The mystery noise that plagued thousands of Canadians for years — until the pandemic ended it

Feb 16 2022, 5:20 pm

A puzzling low-pitched, vibrating noise called “the Hum” affected people in Windsor, Ontario, for years since it was first reported in 2011. And it took nearly a decade for the misery to end.

This was no ordinary noise. It would get louder at times, and its monotony would leave people irritated and unable to focus on things, worried about their children, pets, and their own mental health. Some even reported that their windows shook from the reverberation of the Hum.

The Windsor Public Library reported that those who experienced the auditory phenomenon described it as “a combination of sound and vibration.” It varied in duration and intensity.

One night in early 2012, a staggering 22,000 calls were made to the Town Hall in Windsor — all from people pestered by the strange, motor-like sound. This alerted the feds to work with a group of researchers from the University of Windsor, who studied the sound and attempted to identify its source.

The group said that the Windsor Hum could have originated on Zug Island — an industrial island near Detroit, close to the US-Canada border, but they weren’t confident.

windsor hum

Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

“We are unable to geolocate a definite source for the Hum using common cross-bearings,” they stated in their final report.

The proximity to the US meant this was now a diplomatic issue, subject to American jurisdiction and investigation.

“We think it’s enough to get the (minister of foreign affairs) involved,” said Windsor MP Brian Masse in a conversation with the Windsor Star when the noise complaints hit the 22,000 mark. He also told the newspaper that he’d already contacted the ambassador to the US in Ottawa and sent letters to the ministers of foreign affairs and environment.

The Windsor Star further reported that by the time the two-hour Town Hall meeting ended, more than 13,000 comments and questions had been sent in.

Years later, in the summer of 2020, the bizarre sound suddenly stopped.

As it turned out, a US Steel factory on — you guessed it — Zug Island had just scaled back on operations to stay afloat in the pandemic and shut down their blast furnaces.

Colin Novak, a University of Windsor professor, working on studying the hum, came to the conclusion because it made the most sense. In July 2020, The Detroit News reported that Novak wasn’t allowed onto Zug Island — let alone the US Steel plant — to collect data, but stated that “the proof is in the pudding.”

And just like that, the Windsor Hum was gone. But the phenomenon still remains curious due to the secrecy maintained by US Steel officials and because no one in Windsor reported noticing the Hum until 2011, even though the steel plant was functional before 2011.

The Zug Island plant has been closed permanently, so the chances for further definite answers are scarce.

Unfortunately, the Hum has been experienced across the globe. People in regions that echo with the sound have had to form support groups online to deal with it. At least the residents of Windsor are finally free from their Jumanji-style nightmare — ironically, thanks to the pandemic.

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