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Windsor abuzz with mystery hum rocking neighborhoods late at night, early morning

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The Canadian ministry of environment set up seismic monitors, but there has been no answer for the noise people have heard for months. / ANDRE J. JACKSON/Detroit Free Pres

WINDSOR -- Windsor attorney David Robins first heard the low rumbling while he was watching the NBA Finals on TV. The noise overcame the sound of his TV, so Robins went outside to investigate.

"My whole neighborhood was just rocking with this," he recalled, describing the noise he first heard in May as a deep, resonating vibration. "It went on for about an hour and a half. I'll be honest, I was a little bit scared by it. I wondered what could be so incredibly powerful to generate that deep a noise."

A whole lot of Windsor residents are wondering that. During the last several months, hundreds of people have heard the Windsor Hum, a late-night or early morning sound that vibrates, pulsates, thrums like trucks idling or throbs like the low bass from a car stereo.

So many people have complained that Canada's ministry of environment has set up seismic monitors. So far, there's no explanation.

Theories range from underground blasting in Windsor's salt mines to truck traffic off the Ambassador Bridge to industrial noise from Detroit's Zug Island. Some think the noise stems from the drilling for soil core samples being done for the Windsor highway that will connect to the planned New International Trade Crossing bridge, if and when it's built.

And, of course, there's plenty of Internet talk of UFOs.

"We've all had our chuckles about this, but the fun is over," said Al Maghnieh, a Windsor City Council member. "This is serious. And we need to get to the bottom of this."

Windsor residents, officials seek answers for unexplained hum

With a new baby now 9 months old, Sonya Skillings of Windsor first heard the mysterious humming outside her home during her infant's nighttime feedings last winter.

"It's like when a car goes by your house with really loud bass music, that thumping, but it goes on and on," she said last week.

Dave Robins, a Windsor attorney, has heard the unexplained noise, too.

"It sounds very similar to having 50 Mack trucks idling outside your house," Robins said. "It sometimes makes the windows vibrate."

The mysterious Windsor Hum of recent months -- officially without any explanation despite months of investigation -- has added Detroit's neighboring city to the ranks of worldwide communities experiencing odd environmental phenomena.

There was the Kokomo Hum in Indiana, the Bristol Hum in England and the Taos Hum in New Mexico. Sometimes there's an explanation. In Kokomo, one apparent cause was traced to cooling fans at a local automotive casting plant. Other times, there's never an answer.

Just don't tell them that it's all in their imaginations.

Skillings said that on one occasion last May, the noise and vibration were almost overwhelming.

"I felt like the front windows of my living room were going to come crashing in," she said. "It vibrated so much I thought they were going to pop."

So far, the hum doesn't seem to be an issue in Detroit. But Teri Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Environmental Ministry, said her office has received about 300 complaints since March from residents in and near Windsor. Her office ruled out an industrial source because no industry operates at all the times when the hum has been reported.

Canada's national environmental ministry set up seismic monitoring equipment used for earthquakes in mid-June to collect data on the vibration and hum, but no conclusions have been reached.

Brian Masse, a member of Canada's Parliament who represents the Windsor area, has asked the environmental office to make results known as soon as possible. Masse said he hasn't heard the hum, but wants answers.

"It's coming across such a broad sector of individuals and areas," Masse said this week. "We need to take it seriously."

Al Maghnieh, a member of Windsor's City Council, has not only heard the hum, but has experimented with setting a glass of water on a table, shutting off all appliances and power systems, and watching the water ripple slightly during the hum.

Residents report touching the siding of their houses during the humming and feeling a vibration.

Mostly the sound is heard in west Windsor, a district of affluent middle-class working people. Perhaps significantly, Huron Church Road, the main truck route to and from the Ambassador Bridge, runs through that area. But reports also have come from all over the city and nearby suburbs.

A new Facebook page, Windsor/Essex County Hum, had 367 members as of Wednesday evening. A notice atop the Facebook page warns that all postings must be approved to weed out the more fanciful theories such as UFOs, covert ops or secret tunneling.

Some Windsorites say the hum grows louder after a rainstorm, leading to much discussion about the conductivity of sound in moist air. Skillings finds the sound louder as she jogs nearer the Detroit River.

Meanwhile, people like Maghnieh and Robins are getting calls and e-mails from across Canada and from as far away as Europe from people dealing with their own unexplained hums.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or gallagher99|head