Kingston residents attempt to explain mysterious early morning sounds

Photo by Yang Yu.

Kingston residents turned to social media today seeking answers regarding the cause of loud and “weird” sounds, seeming to emanate from the sky, reportedly heard by many locals in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.

Described by some as “trumpet-like”, or “like a metal table being dragged on a metal floor”, the unexplained noise was reported on social media as happening between 3 and 4 a.m. and was mainly heard locally in the west end of the city.

On Twitter, Adam Correia shared his doorbell camera footage which captured the sounds:

Local residents shared their theories on social media regarding what may have caused the sounds:

  • I saw this in Star Trek 4, we still have whales, right?
  • Super creepy. Maybe it’s a sasquatch?
  • ET meets Close Encounters.
  • Either the eternal torment of condemned souls or something metal under stress.

Many of those who experienced these eerie noises put forth the idea that snowplows scraping the roads could be responsible for the curious noises. Kingstonist inquired with the City of Kingston, and included the above videos, to find out if that was a plausible explanation.

In response to those queries, the City seemingly put that leading theory to rest. “Public Works reviewed the videos provided and have no knowledge that it was any of their equipment making those noises,” the City said.

The mystery sounds do bear some resemblance to the sounds of a snowplow scraping bare roadway but are discernibly more ethereal-sounding.

Video and audio of a City of Kingston snowplow clearing the roadways overnight.

Dr. Alexander Braun, Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering and Dept. of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy at Queen’s University provided a science-based explanation in response to Kingstonist inquiries to the university.

He noted that, while plowing the roadways, snowplows cause vibrations in the shovel and their own bodies which are then radiated through the air and the ground.

“Large vehicles with sheet metal are notorious for generating high energy sound waves including infrasound. Vibrations of metal sheets create these waves and the human ear cannot hear them. Consequently, many truck drivers lose their hearing over time. We can analyze the recorded sound and recreate it next to a snowplow and compare. I am sure this is the source,” Braun said in an email.

He went on to explain that when these sound waves hit the entrance of the home where the door cam is located, which is shaped like an antenna, the energy waves are trapped inside the entire entrance area and recorded by the microphone.

When asked about why so many people reported hearing similar sounds, he added, “Sounds can travel quite far if the conditions are right. Like a fibre optical cable, sound waves (elastic waves) can be trapped in a waveguide and travel almost without loss of energy. For instance, a sheet of limestone can trap a wave and move it to the next block. People often cannot [locate] the source of it any longer.”

Further investigation into these noises revealed that they had been heard in other areas as well. An individual in Ohio posted that they had also heard similar noises at around the same time this morning, and a resident of Edmonton heard the same sounds approximately three years ago. In 2020, similarly-described sounds piqued the interest of residents of Anchorage, Alaska.

That year, a British Columbia scientist, Dr. Glen MacPherson, postulated that he had “solved the sky trumpets,” after residents in Kamloops B.C. reported hearing noises similar to those reported here last night.

MacPherson claimed, at the time, that the sounds were “nothing more than the brakes on large vehicles.”

“People don’t want to hear boring, they want to hear interesting and mysterious, but… the vast majority of cases, these are mechanical noises especially caused by large, slow-moving trucks that are braking,” he told a reporter at the time. “There is other mechanical sources of course.”

Braun noted that any long-distance reports of similar sounds, like the one reportedly heard in Ohio, are likely due to similar circumstances in those areas, and not related to the sounds occurring locally.

“Similar sounds in other provinces or states are pure coincidence, likely related to similar snow/ice conditions that day,” he said.

Did you hear the mystery sounds this morning? What’s your take on this phenomenon? Leave us a comment with your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “Kingston residents attempt to explain mysterious early morning sounds

  • The infrasound explanation is laughable. Infrasound is comprised of air waves below human hearing sensation. An object needs to resonate to absorb that energy and convert it back into sounds that can be heard. For example, wind turbines on Wolfe Island and Amherst Island could generate infrasound when hit by winds, yet it wouldn’t be heard until the pipes or foundations in a house vibrate at a higher frequency. Similar infrasonic phenomena occur with railways, highway traffic, and wind hitting power lines; and, intense infrasound can be reflected over long distances, (such as cannon fired on the European mainland and heard in Britain, during past wars).

    At 3 to 4 AM, my guess is that somebody was plowing snow, somewhere, while Kingston’s Noise Bylaw enforcement was fast asleep. This happens many nights in a parking lot behind a church on Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, (next to several apartment buildings); and, when the public address system is used at Richardson Stadium, it can be heard blaring two kilometres away. Maybe, Dr. Alexander Braun could look into why none of the Noise Bylaw enforcement officials can do anything about that latter problem. Or, have they become deaf, too?

  • The noise was cars being towed away because people did not pay attention to warnings from the city. No mystery

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!