Ghosts of Cuba

I’m glad some people are skeptical about the so-called “sonic attacks” on the American embassy in Cuba. It’s absurd.

It’s also easily tested. If bad guys are pumping energy into embassy rooms with some kind of mysterious device, that’s testable. We’ve got wackaloons running around claiming they can detect non-existent ghosts with simple electronic gadgets — real physicists could easily place real recording devices that are sensitive to a wide range of frequencies in these rooms and get concrete evidence of a real phenomenon, if it exists. Why haven’t they? You’d think the first thing they would do, on suspecting that they’re getting zapped by sonic rays, is call up the NSA or the signal corps, and they’d stick a few widgets around and detect any anomalous signals.

Have they? If they have, we’d know and have specific measurements to pin the fault on something. If they haven’t, it means they’ve got nothing but ghosts. And ghosts don’t exist.


  1. Dunc says

    I find it very hard to believe that the NSA doesn’t have the place wired sixteen ways from Sunday already, just for routine counter-intelligence purposes. Everybody tries to bug embassies (and every bar within a few blocks of an embassy), and every embassy tries to identify the bugs. You probably don’t want neutralise them*, as that tips the bug owner off that you’re onto them – you just want to know where they are and how they work so that you can control what (dis)information they’re receiving.

    *(At least, not all off them – you can neutralise a few of the more obvious ones to show you’re taking your hosts / adversaries seriously, as a matter of diplomatic courtesy.)

  2. says

    Furthermore — and this is why I never believe this in the first place — the Cubans have absolutely no conceivable motive to do this. The only narrative behind this ridiculous story is that they’re evil commies so they would obviously do evil. That’s utterly inane.

  3. robro says

    cervantes @ #3

    The only narrative behind this ridiculous story is that they’re evil commies so they would obviously do evil.

    I haven’t followed this one closely because it seems so obviously bogus, like murderous pizza parlors and the Clintons. I assumed “commies are evil”, tacitly if not explicitly, would sufficiently explain away any questions of Cuba’s motivation to many Americans.

    Amusingly, these same folks adore a president and administration which has a cozy relationship with those other “commies”…those “Russians” or “oligarchs” or other code words for the mysterious (not really) cabal of multi-billionaires who are jerking around elections to promote their interests.

    The technical issues would hardly enter the minds of these same people. Didn’t Tom Cruise do it in a movie? Maybe it was MacGyver. Must be real.

  4. says

    Despite its sarcastic sound, this is not sarcastic: I worked with and around (and was one of!) those security people for a long time.

    The reason that “real physicists” aren’t brought in to do things like this is that they’re not trusted by Management and often don’t have the necessary preexisting security clearances. Thinking somewhat hypothetically, no system-trained Security Manager would allow (a) uncleared personnel to (b) install devices not thoroughly understood by said Security Manager that (c) can also, with minimal modification, function as listening devices to (d) record matters inside an embassy in a foreign company and (e) even if somehow convinced personally that the foregoing is a good idea, be able to convince his/her superiors that it’s a good idea in the first place. I explicitly cannot give examples of having observed anything like this because all of any such “data” (including its very existence) is subject to various nondisclosure agreements; I can only offer this as a conclusion about the people and mindsets involved. Which is not very scientific… but try to convince anyone involved in foreign relations or related areas that a scientifically sound means of thinking might be helpful (even when the underlying issue directly involves science). If, that is, you really enjoy frustration.

  5. multitool says

    This story sounded fishy when I first heard the symptoms; they were like any flu that tourists could get.

    And as mentioned above the ‘why’ didn’t make any sense at all. A crowbar or a bullett would be much more cheap and effective. It’s reverse Occam’s razor again.

  6. says

    As Volvox’s post notes some Canadian diplomatic personnel have reported odd symptoms as well. But why would they be targeted along with the Americans, yet no other allied embassy seems to have been?

  7. militantagnostic says

    timgueguen @7

    Especially considering Canada has had fairly good relations with Cuba for a long time.

    I wonder if any of the mysterious concussions were the result of doing something embarrassingly stupid (probably while drunk). Jumping on the sonic bandwagon would provide a good excuse.

    The rest of it is in Chronic Lyme Disease / Emf Sensitivity / Wind Turbine territory.

  8. Walter Solomon says

    @ 4 robro

    …like murderous child sex trafficking pizza parlors and the Clintons.

    You actually lessened the absurdity of the Deplorables beliefs. The depths of their gullibility doesn’t seem to know any bounds.

  9. kaleberg says

    It hasn’t just been just embassy rooms. Several of the attacks have been in hotels as opposed to at the embassies (US & Canadian) proper. I gather that there has been documented brain injury and hearing loss, and more than one victim reported hearing a characteristic noise at or around the time of the injury.

    It would be great to bring in the appropriate gear to actually detect an attack and determine more about its nature, but the attacks have been sporadic and localized. It isn’t clear where to be watching / listening. It isn’t clear if the attacks are sonic or EMF, and if EMF at which bandwidth. The attacks seem to be tightly localized. At least one diplomat reported damage, though his wife sleeping beside him heard nothing and was unharmed. That might provide a clue.

    Now, it is possible that this is just hysteria with worried diplomatic staff being “triggered” and then reporting symptoms. It’s not that hard to present hearing loss, disorientation and so on, and once the pattern of symptoms has been established, it gets even easier. That’s been a problem with people suffering PTSD and other complaints. The case can be closed as hysterical, and in some cases it might be.

    It is also possible that there is something going on. Just bringing in a physicist isn’t the answer. The physics of EMF and sound are quite different, and most physicists aren’t studying ways to attack people. Just designing a detector, even for use in a single room, would be a bit of a research project. How does one detect a maser attack when the whole point of a maser is that it produces a coherent beam? How does one detect a focused sound attack when the whole point of such attack is that the energy is only concentrated at the target, but diffuse elsewhere? I’m sure there are physicists who can handle this, but there is no off-the-shelf detector that one can simply install.

    What makes the attacks, if they are such, so strange is that there is no obvious motive for them. The Cuban government is more than happy with the US embassy, even if they aren’t all that happy with the current administration. Is there some Cuban intelligence group worried about normalized relations weakening the party ideology? Are the Russians or some other nation secretly pissed that the US has reopened its embassy? Is it a bunch of kids with access to superweapons?

  10. Rich Woods says

    @Nemo #2:

    (This is what I think of every time I hear about “sonic attacks”.)

    I go back a few years earlier and think about Hawkwind when I hear ‘sonic attack’. But today I found a more up to date reworking (fans will recognise many, well, fan points).

  11. andyo says

    #11 Kaleberg,

    I’m not a physicist, but why would the sound or microwave hypotheses be given any credence before something more common? Even if there are attacks, how about poisoning, or a biological attack. Several other things that aren’t sound can cause hearing loss, besides not all of the “victims” had it if I’m not mistaken. It could just be psychological. That one person heard something before symptoms is also extremely suspicious to me. So, is it infra/ultra sound, or is it audible? Both? Seems like some reporters who initially put out the story had seen too many James Bond movies and just jumped to conclusions.

    Again, I’m not a physicist, but wouldn’t a detector easily detect a maser in the same way your eyes can detect when a laser hits something? Light and microwaves would just bounce around if I’m not mistaken.

  12. andyo says

    Oh, and also, even if there could be a maser beam narrow enough to avoid detection, then how would the target be affected by it? It’s not like the targets are just standing around outside with a literal target on their shirts.

  13. blgmnts says

    Another problem: An attacker suspecting an investigation with some detector would probably suspend their activity until they think the coast is clear. And ISTR reading in mainstream media online that brain damage was indeed diagnosed.

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 8 militantagnostic

    Especially considering Canada has had fairly good relations with Cuba for a long time.

    I’d put the whole thing down to a cabal of Canadian tourists trying to keep their playground unpolluted. And it seems to be working!

    @ 7 timgueguen

    But why would they be targeted along with the Americans,

    The weapons are voice-activated and the cabal still is having a problem with accent discrimination. Some Americans sound a lot like Canadians.

  15. alanuk says

    The BBC has got this as well:

    Using an inaudible sound device for a stealth attack “is quite plausible from a technical point of view”, Denis Bedat, a specialist in bio-electromagnetics, told AFP news agency this week.
    “Ultrasonic waves, beyond the acoustic capacity of humans, can be broadcast with an amplifier, and the device does not need to be large, or used inside or outside a house.”
    He gave as an example the Active Denial System (ADS), an anti-riot gun used by US police forces that emits electromagnetic waves which produce a sudden unbearable burning sensation.

    What does the BBC do?
    It takes in sound waves at one end and sends out radio waves at the other.
    They do not appear to know the difference!

    Denis Bédat is one of the great scientists and innovators in the field of human science. He completed his Ph.D. in Biophysics at the California Institute for Human Science with specialties in quantum physics, advanced studies of consciousness, biophotons, cell biocommunication, astrobiology, neuro-biofeedback, bio-electromagnetic and parapsychology.
    He is professor of behavioral psycho-acoustics and research in neuro-acoustics. After more than a decade of cutting-edge research on the treatment of osteoporosis, relief of menopausal symptoms, management of attention disorders, premonitory capacity building and nano-pharmacology, developed a new form of neuro-therapy by cerebral training, a zero-gravity bed and an anti-gravity armchair convertible operating table.

    You could not make it up!
    I got the above from: