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Why We May Never Know the Source of Oregon's Mysterious Screeching Noise

Forest Grove, Oregon, lost its mind over the mysterious sound of Satan's tea kettle. Is the nightmare over?

by Mike Pearl
Mar 29 2016, 4:59pm

Image via Google Street View

Photo by DeviantArt user GustavoMPD

It kinda sounds like Satan's tea kettle, or a malfunctioning subway train screeching to a stop in the middle of the woods, or a sustained, single note from that musical UFO in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Dave Nemeyer, a Forest Grove, Oregon, fire marshall, called the screech "horrendous" on a February 18 story on the screech by Portland's ABC News affiliate.

Here's what it sounds like:

Mystery sounds from out of the blue seem to be on the rise lately. Earlier this month, we reported on a rash of what sounded like explosions from nowhere just outside Los Angeles. And those weren't the only noises terrorizing communities this year.

But today, authorities and experts in the area told VICE they'd all but given up on figuring out what the Forest Grove screeching sound is—or was.

Just before the story of the mystery noise emerged on February 18, an episode of The X-Files called "Babylon" had aired on February 15. Characters in that episode heard blaring trumpets from nowhere—a herald of the coming apocalypse. "Babylon" is regarded as one of the most ridiculous episodes of The X-Files ever, but a columnist named Joseph Rose alluded to the X-Files connection in a piece he wrote for the Oregonian arguing that locals should be freaked out.

On February 21, the story went national, appearing on the Washington Post's website.

On February 24, Forest Grove City Hall released a statement on Facebook about the noise in response to a massive flood of interest from the public. "Some folks are loving it, others are hating it. We get it. Our voicemail boxes and emails are being inundated with unsolicited theories and solutions from all over the world." That city hall representative went on to explain that the city was investigating, and that the public shouldn't be overly worried because the apparent Call of Cthulhu seemed to pose no immediate threat to anyone's safety.

That same day, Andrew Dawes, a physics professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, told the Oregonian he had launched a project aimed at tracing the noise to its source. His Google Map was meant to pinpoint the origin of the noise, allowing local authorities to target their investigation in areas known to be suffering from the aural scourge.

But despite the global fascination with the story, as of today, Marshall Nemeyer says the noise is no longer an issue. "We have had one official call about the noise, and it came from the woman who originally recorded the video," Nemeyer told VICE in an email. He was referring to Forest Grove resident Paula Lynch, who refused to show her face to news crews. She claimed to have heard the sound three times, and she said it terrified her pets.

Nemeyer explained that unless there are more official complaints, Forest Grove Fire and Rescue is shutting down its investigation. Fire and Rescue found nothing out of the ordinary at that woman's house, Nemeyer said. Local utility companies, he explained, demonstrated to his satisfaction that none of their equipment in the area near the initial complaint can even produce the nightmarish squeal that captured the world's imagination.

"We have seen a small group of people say on local Facebook groups that they have heard something over there, but I live within a few blocks and have heard nothing," he told VICE.

Dawes, the physics professor, says he's also abandoning the chase. "It seems that whatever noise was originally puzzling people has gone away," he told VICE in an email. His Google Map didn't point to any kind of pattern—instead just dispersing instances of the noise randomly around Forest Grove. Dawes said that upon closer inspection, the sound was similar to a sound sometimes made by ventilation pumps.

"It's also certainly possible that the noise originated from a prank, and the increased attention dissuaded those responsible," Dawes added.

But no fewer than 13 people logged into Dawes's Google Map and claimed to have heard a screeching noise in their town that merited inclusion on Dawes's map. Was that just mass hysteria? "I believe people have heard noises that sound similar," Dawes wrote. However, he continued, "I don't think they are from a common source, or anything else mysterious."

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