The mystery of the humming house in Chesapeake

The mystery of the humming house in Chesapeake

Charlie Buchanan and his humming house


It was around November, Charlie Buchanan says, when his house started humming.

The sound is incessant, low-pitched and obnoxious, he said. The kind of hum that gets in the ears and under the skin. It’s driving him crazy, but even after 40 years as an electrician, Buchanan, 64, said he just cannot find the source.

“I can fix almost anything,” he said at his house in Great Bridge. “But I can’t fix this hum.”

The mystery has confounded a wide range of people in the last few months. Buchanan can hear it, but his wife can’t. Dominion Power has been out six times, but a spokeswoman said none of the workers can hear it, either. On a recent visit, a Pilot reporter and photographer both heard it – faint but steady, emanating from near a rear window in the corner of Buchanan’s bedroom.

“You can hear it?” he said. “Whew!”

Buchanan lives in Homestead Acres, a tidy neighborhood just off Benefit Road a few miles west of the Chesapeake Expressway and Edinburgh Shopping Center. When the noise first started, he thought it might be from inflatable Christmas decorations across the street. But when he checked, they weren’t running. The holidays came and went, but the sound remained.

He asked on Facebook if anyone had any bright ideas on why his house might be humming. One reader wrote: “Because it doesn’t know the tune.”

He determined that the noise is not generated from the cable or propane gas running into his house, and it’s not from a busted pipe. Few appliances run 24 hours a day – for example, the pump in his well water system kicks on and off – but he hears the hum all the time.

A neighbor’s hot tub was one of the first potential sources for the noise, but Buchanan eliminated it by asking them to turn theirs off.

He Googled theories like “magnetostriction” and “the harmonics of sound waves,” and put a hand and an ear to nearby telephone poles to feel for vibrations. He wonders if the issue is a transformer somewhere.