2016: Mystery noise exasperates neighbors, grabs headlines
Editor's note: This story is part of the News-Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that mattered to readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
What the heck is that noise?
Even years later, no one knows for sure. But for much of February 2016, it grated on residents' nerves in west Forest Grove, near Northwest Gales Creek Road.
The high-pitched, keening sound drew the attention of Portland-area media and even some national news outlets. Seemingly everyone had a theory about the "mystery noise," from a leaky valve to a faulty fan to mating frogs to an out-of-tune musical instrument to some sort of natural "resonance tone" produced by the geography and soil conditions of the area.
"It's a pitch and decibel level unlike anything I've ever heard," area resident Dean Pittman told the News-Times. "It's cover-your-ears loud, like an air raid siren."
Some neighbors were nonplussed by the whole thing.
"The only squealing I've heard is my kids," quipped Jaimie Curry.
One resident posted a video to Facebook, which was widely shared on social media, as well as with Forest Grove police. Although authorities investigated, they couldn't find an explanation for the noise.
According to residents who reported hearing it, the noise came and went, seemingly at random. That might account for why even some of their neighbors said they never heard it.
"It doesn't come for several days, then you'll hear it out of nowhere," said Jordon Pittman.
Not everyone was convinced the noise was even a real phenomenon.
"I'm thinking it's just somebody trying to get attention," remarked another neighbor, Alyson Crawford.
Whatever it was, reports of the noise dropped off dramatically after February 2016. Police closed their investigation weeks later. Most of the amateur sleuths who had spent days trying to figure out what the noise was lost interest.
Even still, occasionally, a new "analysis" of the noise will pop up online, or someone will claim to have heard a similar noise somewhere in Forest Grove. The sound even inspired a Halloween production by Theatre in the Grove later in 2016.
Real or a hoax, mechanical fault or oboe practice gone wrong, it seems the mystery noise will screech on forever in local lore.
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