The Kaibab Hum
My Strangest Encounter with a Person, Place, or Thing in the West Return to contest page »
It only happened at dusk and at night and I was the only one to hear it. It sounded like underground drilling for uranium.
The Kaibab Hum
The strangest thing I ever heard was on the North Kaibab Plateau, in Arizona, during the summer of 1978. I had just graduated from college in Flagstaff, and received an offer to work seasonally for the US Forest Service. But the rules were a little too tight for my tastes, back then. No pets were allowed at my assigned station, Big Springs Ranger Station, but I wasn’t about to separate from my two dogs. Maggie and Cloud were at the prime of their lives, and, really, so was I.
I met with the District Ranger in Fredonia to request permission to camp instead of joining the other seasonal employees at the work station. He was especially gracious to have me there and gave permission, with stipulations. He requested that my camp be located on the timber sale areas I was working on. He wanted all adjacent snags to be removed by the crew, and he demanded that the crew consider the location of my camp entirely confidential, for my safety.
It was the most fantastic summer. I was hiking all day long marking and measuring timber, stirring up wildlife, and catching an occasional view of the Grand Canyon. In the evenings, I would walk with the dogs up and down old logging roads and through the lush green forest. By dark, the dogs and I curled up in our tent, each night, completely exhausted and content.
I don’t know when it started, but I began noticing it in the evenings just before, and after, dark, as I would sit outside to enjoy the cosmos. It was like a proverbial “hum” in the distance. Just before dark, I started hearing a sound of distant rumbling. I wasn’t sure if it was something or nothing. I was at least 35 miles from a highway, so it wasn’t traffic. I knew for a fact that the loggers left the forest every day, precisely at 4pm. I also knew there was a uranium mine operating about 25 miles away in Hack Canyon, a tributary to Kanab Creek. I got it in my mind that the sound I was hearing was underground drilling, but why would it occur at night? I wasn’t afraid of the sound, but I was mystified.
As I met other summer seasonals from Big Springs, I would mention this sound to a select few. Some offered to come take a listen, and of course everyone thought it was interesting. The first person who came by leaned back after dinner, listened to the birds, and slowly started snoring. Most people who came out never could hear anything unusual. Although I wasn’t concerned, the sound definitely grew more distinct as the weeks wore on.
One day a friend came by after work and hung out with me until dark. A couple of times he asked: “Do you hear it now?” to which I listened intently and ultimately replied “Yes.” After a long pause, he said “That is the sound of your own mind. What you are hearing is the clamoring and deafening sounds of silence.”