Omagh, Northern Ireland: Mystery hum keeps small town up at night

A bizarre humming sound has seized a small town in Northern Ireland, perplexing residents who say it’s keeping them up at night.

The mysterious buzzing has continued for weeks in Omagh, a town of 20,000 people 80km west of Belfast, with authorities unable to say what’s causing it or where it’s coming from.

Local councillor Stephen Donnelly said the plaguing sound may seem trivial, but it had become a serious concern for some residents.

“What we need to do is establish the facts and get to the bottom of this and then take action to resolve this,” Mr Donnelly told the BBC.

“I appreciate that when a story like this is kind of draped in mystery and intrigue that it can very easily become a subject of trivialisation but certainly from people I have spoken to … they are very concerned about the ability that they have to make sure they get a good night’s sleep.

“It may well be that it’s seasonal or weather-related but these things often don’t turn out to be simple and it may be a multitude of sources.”

Mr Donnelly said he was contacted by a group of residents in one area of Omagh in late October, but the phenomenon had since spread to other parts of the town.

Residents “usually characterise it as a persistent buzz or hum” that was distinct from more common noise such as traffic, he said.

One man described the sound as “like a vibrating noise, real loud at night, about 12 or 1 every night”, telling the BBC it had woken him up at night.

The Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has launched an investigation into the humming, but it has so far been unable to trace its source. With the investigation so far fruitless, the council says it’s getting ready to call in audio experts.

A council spokeswoman said finding the source of the hum had been challenging.

“Due to the wide area where the sound has been reported it is difficult to pinpoint the exact source(s),” she said.

“Officers are currently investigating the use of specialist equipment, or procurement of a specialist company, to assist in detecting the source of the noise.”

The situation is reminiscent of the 1970s “Bristol hum”, when hundreds of people in the UK city of Bristol reported a strange buzzing noise. After falling silent for decades, the low-level Bristol hum returned in 2016 before dissipating once more.

The phenomenon, known widely as “The Hum”, has ben reported across the globe for the past five decades, including in Australia.

Several theories exist as to where the strange noise comes from, ranging from tinnitus to factory noise to conspiracy theories.

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