Reader's Digest

UNSOLVED MYSTERIES

FROM SCIENCE, CRIME & HISTORY

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diplomatic crisis Sickening Noises

In December 2016, a CIA officer checked in to the American Embassy’s health office in Havana suffering from nausea, headache, and dizziness. Days later, two more CIA officers reported similar ailments. By late 2018, the number grew to 26 Americans and 13 Canadians experienci­ng nausea, hearing loss, vertigo, nosebleeds, and focusing issues. In all the cases, victims claimed that the symptoms were triggered by a strange noise they’d heard at their homes or hotel rooms. One person said the noise was high-pitched. Another described “a beam of sound, pointed into their rooms.” Some By Jacopo della Quercia and Lauren Cahn

insisted that the noise more closely resembled marbles rolling along the floor.

The illnesses confounded medical experts. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvan­ia who examined some of the victims diagnosed concussion­like symptoms but found no signs they’d suffered concussion­s.

We know what you must be thinking: The Cuban government is up to something, right? The Cubans vehemently deny they’re responsibl­e, and many American investigat­ors believe them. That’s because they still don’t know who or what made the victims sick. Was it a new type of weapon? The CIA claims it doesn’t know of any weaponry that could cause these symptoms. What about ultrasound? One theory holds that a pair of covert eavesdropp­ing devices placed too close to each other by Cuban agents may have inadverten­tly produced such a reaction, like the kind of feedback you hear when someone stands too close to a microphone. But the FBI has found no evidence to substantia­te that argument. In fact, ultrasound is above the range of human hearing.

Recordings of the sounds from some of the victims only added to the confusion. Two scientists who studied the recordings believe they captured the sound of lovelorn male crickets. One of the scientists, Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, says the insects are incredibly loud. “You can hear them from inside a diesel truck going 40 miles an hour on the highway.” Still, the scientists had no idea why the sounds might lead to illness in humans.

Maybe it was just nerves. “Cuba is a high-threat, high-stress post,” a former embassy official told propublica.org. Diplomats are warned that “there will be surveillan­ce. There will be listening devices in your house, probably in your car. For some people, that puts them in a high-stress mentality, in a threat-anticipati­on mode.”

True—but then how to explain what happened in China? In May 2018, an American posted in the consulate in Guangzhou was diagnosed with the very same mystery illness. Ultimately, 15 Americans were evacuated.

While the seemingly airborne cause of these brain injuries is still a mystery, the fallout is clear. The Americans removed 60 percent of their diplomats from Cuba and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington, DC. The mysterious sounds may well be the opening shots in a new kind of cold war.

History rewritten Roaming Ruins

It’s not unusual to find junk in Brazil’s Guanabara Bay, but what Robert Marx unearthed there in 1982 was an unusual kind of foreign matter. In an underwater field the size of three

tennis courts located 15 miles from shore lay the remains of some 200 Roman ceramic jars, a few fully intact. According to Marx, a profession­al treasure hunter, the jars appeared to be twin-handled amphorae that were used to transport goods such as grains and wine in the third century. But how did they get there? The first Europeans didn’t reach Brazil until 1500.

The Romans, who traded primarily in Mediterran­ean port cities and the Middle East, had little incentive to invest in ships that could cross oceans. However, they did sail as far as India. Perhaps some untrained navigator lost his way in a storm. Or maybe mutineers steered the ship westward?

We may never know, nor are we likely to uncover more evidence. Brazil closed the Bay of Jars to further research in 1983 in an effort to deter looters, it said. Marx claims the government didn’t want the area explored because finding Romanera artifacts there would mean that, contrary to Brazil’s official history, the Portuguese were not the first Europeans to reach the country. And the truth? It’s resting 100 feet under the sea.

In 1957, three children—including two sisters—were struck and killed (1) by a car. A year later, the sisters’ grieving mother gave birth to twins. When they learned to talk, the twins recounted stories about the accident (2) only the dead girls would have known. Were Gillian and Jennifer Pollock (3) the reincarnat­ion of their sisters? Dr. Ian Stevenson (4), an expert in the paranormal, thought so.

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