The Havana Syndrome mystery continues

I remain intrigued by the so-called ‘Havana Syndrome’, the strange affliction reported by some (mostly) US government and embassy officials when they are in other countries. Starting in 2016, these people reported hearing ringing or chirping sounds and headaches and the like. Since the first reports came from US embassy personnel in Havana, people jumped to the conclusion that the Cubans or Russians were trying out some new kind of weapon using targeted microwaves or ultrasound. But that theory always seemed implausible, both for technical and geopolitical reasons.

The US government has devoted considerable effort to try and identify the cause with little success. Now the CIA has issued yet another report that suggests that the ‘foreign power’ theory is not tenable.

An initial CIA investigation into the mysterious set of symptoms known as Havana syndrome has found that it is unlikely to be the result of a worldwide campaign of attacks by a foreign power against US diplomats and spies.

However, two dozen cases, including some of those originally afflicted in Havana in 2016, could not be explained and would be further studied for evidence of a possible attack, according to a senior CIA official who briefed the US press.

Since the original outbreak of the symptoms, which include hearing strange sounds, dizziness, loss of balance, nausea and memory loss, more than 1,000 cases have been studied around the world.

The interim findings of a CIA investigation have found that the majority of cases could probably be attributed to a pre-existing medical condition, or environmental factors, or stress, the senior official said.

The CIA finding suggests that after the initial cases were reported, hundreds of US embassy and intelligence agency employees started to wonder whether their symptoms could be related. Government agencies asked for anyone who thought they might be affected to file a report.

So if there was not some kind of microwave or ultrasound weapon, what might be left as a possible cause? Other theories were floated, that it was due to crickets chirping or pesticide poisoning but those also seemed dubious, given that the complaints came from all over the world.

The people who reported symptoms are not happy with the remaining suggestions that it might be all in their heads or due to some pre-existing conditions.

The whole thing is quite mysterious. Most of the people who reported symptoms are run-of-the mill government bureaucrats, not your typical tin-foil hat types. That so many of them spread out all over the world report similar symptoms makes it hard to imagine that it is some kind of mass hallucination.

This is one of those cases where every theory that is floated has major problems and inconsistencies. It is an intriguing puzzle that will be interesting to definitively resolve, if it ever is.


  1. K says

    Theory; since this only appears to happen inside buildings built by the absolute rock-bottom lowest-bid contractor for the US Gov’t, could it be a matter of whatever building materials that building was made of? AKA “sick building” issues?

    Just one example; I once took a job in a building with terrible ventilation (as in, pretty much none) and found myself getting bacterial pneumonia over and over and over…when I’d never had it before. I left that job and have never again had pneumonia. Clearly, the problem was that building.

  2. says

    K@1, I got to thinking about something more nefarious. (OK, am I a conspiracy theorist?) There is some sort of CIA eavesdropping device (or something I don’t know enough about to even conceive) that was installed in the buildings, and this is a side effect that they were unaware of. And the CIA can hardly admit that, can they?

  3. mrandmrsoccupant says

    Reminded me of the “Seattle windshield pitting epidemic.” From Wikipedia: “It was characterized by widespread observation of previously unnoticed windshield holes, pits and dings, leading residents to believe that a common causative agent was at work. It was originally thought to be the work of vandals, but the rate of pitting was so great that residents began to attribute it to everything from sand flea eggs to nuclear bomb testing. “

  4. says

    K (#1) --

    I recently linked to an item about Legionnaire’s Disease, how it was traced back to a single hotel in Philadelphia, 1986. It was being spread through the hotel’s air conditioning system, then across the US by attendees at an american legion event.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe the baddies in Havana were using a big device shaped like a vacuum cleaner?
    (the young ones will not have read the book)

  6. K says

    To be clear; if there is some type of listening device in the buildings, I would not be surprised. I don’t think it would be the CIA spying on American citizens (isn’t that the FBI’s job?). Or, as Intransive suggests, it could be some commonality nobody’s figured out yet (did they all sit in the same airport waiting room?).

    But I would also not be surprised if it were some sort of “sick building” syndrome, or something in the architecture causing stress and strain on the building--does anyone else remember the movie clip of a poorly-built bridge oscillating until it finally broke apart?

  7. Who Cares says

    The problem for the ‘It is a weapon!” crowd is that they have multiple instances of the sound in Havana recorded. That rules out some attack on the human body as described by them since that sound is supposed to be an auditory hallucination.
    And the first study commissioned about what happened (JASON group, declassified these days) paraphrased stated:

    We’re pretty sure these sounds are just the crickets or maybe a nearby concrete mixer that needs to be serviced, The symptoms given do not fit with a targeted microwave or ultrasound attack. This doesn’t rule out that the sound could have been used to cover up something else but we have no clue what that would be.

  8. lorn says

    I used to think that perhaps the unusual hollow poles around the embassy in Cuba and sea breeze might be producing very low frequency sound. I had a friend who ran a lab over at the university claim that the symptoms were similar to early testing done in the 50s. Sounded good but it seemed to lack credibility in some circles. I don’t know why.

    I will note that humans are operating well outside out design setting. Noise levels have never been higher. Throw in the inaudible spectrum and we are drowning in a sea of noise. Discounting accidental noise, like sea breezes blowing across pipes, and both engineered attacks and 5G we have microwave antennas blasting out energy. And RADAR, and microwave ovens, and radio waves, and …

    Don’t forget to toss in cell phones and the stress of being ‘available’ 24/7, heavy metals in the food and water, weird shit growing in the ducts and cooling towers, random spores, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and throw in the simple fact that a whole lot of people are dosed with anti-depressants or speed used to counter ADHD, Nobody has a cue how any of this stuff interacts once you get beyond two or three components.

    Humans didn’t evolve for all of this.

  9. karmacat says

    I get the same symptoms when I don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep tends to trigger my vertigo symptoms. These symptoms could also be due to anxiety or depression or benign positional vertigo. But I would recommend a check of cardiac causes initially, because there is a chance of death with cardiac diseases. Tinnitus is more of a brain problem because you can train your brain to ignore those signals to the point that a person won’t “hear” those sounds. Memory problems are usually short term memory problems that are likely caused by poor concentration. I would probably check for carbon monoxide poisoning which I assume they already did.

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