Jul 10, 2019 I Brett Tingley

Unidentified Sonic Phenomenon Causing ‘Hangover’ Symptoms in Brooklyn

I’m a sucker for unidentified sonic phenomena. The latest weird noise to pop up in the news comes by way of the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, where residents say a mysterious and unidentified noise has been causing painful side-effects and curious medical conditions for months. Oddly enough, some of the symptoms seem eerily similar to the unexplained medical complications reported by U.S. diplomats at several embassies reportedly plagued by sonic attacks over the last few years. Could the two related?

The story of the strange Brooklyn hum first appeared on Patch.com last week. According to reports, up to a half a dozen complaints have been filed with city officials concerning the pain-inducing noise but no action has been taken as nobody knows where the sound is coming from. Locals describe the sound as a “mysterious, headache-inducing tone” or a “high pitched noise” that can be heard both inside homes and on city streets.


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Some Bedford-Stuyvesant residents report that the noise has been causing them headaches, mental stress, or even “hangover-like symptoms.” Painful sinus pressure and “mental stress” have also been reported since the unidentified tone first appeared. 

One Bed-Stuy local says the noise seems to be getting louder in recent weeks after first being noticed in May. "I couldn't run away from it," Drew Robbi told Patch.com. "I went inside it was still piercing. If it's emanating from a house it would get higher, but that's not been the experience. It's even throughout the whole block." Have a listen for yourself: Robbi posted a recording of the noise to Twitter. It’s an objectively miserable sound and one you certainly wouldn't want to hear 24 hours a day.

Local police and utility officials have looked into the noise but have not been able to identify a cause. The best theory going is that a malfunctioning air conditioning unit could be to blame, but the New York City Department of Environmental Protection does not have the resources to hunt down every single A/C unit in the city. Instead, they recommend all residents turn their units off briefly to determine if they might be the ones responsible for the piercing noise. With temperatures climbing higher as summer drags on, it will prove difficult to convince Brooklyn residents to turn their A/C units off.

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Rooftop air conditioning units

Another unexplained hum caused similar issues for Michigan residents back in March, and the strange saga of the sonic “attacks” at embassies has been well-documented. What could be behind these unexplained sonic phenomena? Are they merely an unfortunate byproduct of modern technology and infrastructure? Maybe we’re doomed to live in a noisy, headache-inducing world as more machinery comes to occupy human spaces alongside us. 

Maybe though, just maybe, something stranger is lying under the surface of all of these seemingly unrelated stories. Unidentified visual phenomena tend to receive much more attention than unidentified sonic phenomena, but many disparate stories about strange noises over the last few years prove that high strangeness can come in many forms. What’s causing the strange tone in Brooklyn?

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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