A loud piercing sound that is haunting people

Havana syndrome were first reported by CIA officials and State Department employees working at the American embassy in the Cuban capitol in late 2016. People exposed to high-intensity microwave pulses have reported a clicking or buzzing sound, as if seeming to be coming from within your head. Havana syndrome has been reported in India after a CIA officer reported symptoms similar to the mysterious illness during his visit to New Delhi in the month of September 2021.

What is the ‘Havana syndrome’?

In late 2016, US diplomats and other employees stationed in Havana reported feeling ill after hearing strange sounds and experiencing odd physical sensations in their hotel rooms or homes. They described hearing harsh mechanical sounds and/or experiencing uncomfortable pressure, like the sensation of driving fast in a car with one window partially down. Some sufferers have said that when the symptoms first emerged, it felt like they were being hit with a beam of energy.


What are the symptoms?

The symptoms included

  • Nausea,
  • Severe headaches,
  • Fatigue,
  • Dizziness,
  • Sleep problems, and
  • Ear pain or Hearing loss,
  • Vertigo,
  • Vision problems, and
  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • Vertigo,
  • Vision problems, and
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unusual “Buzzing”, “grinding metal”, “piercing squeals” sounds
  • tinnitus, brain fog
  • a loud piercing sound and feeling intense pressure in the face.



Till now, the symptoms went away quickly for some, but for others, they have lingered on for a long time.


  • Havana syndrome was first detected in 2016 among spies and diplomats working at the American embassy and Canadians in  When the first of the cases were reported in Havana, the capital of Cuba, in 2016, officials complained of having the feeling of being “bombarded by waves of pressure in their heads”, the NYT report said. Some of the others said they were “feeling as if they were standing in an invisible beam of energy. Few reported observed symptoms such as dizziness nausea and difficulty in concentrating”.
  • In 2018, diplomats in China reported similar symptoms to reports in Cuba, as did undercover CIA agents working in other countries.
  • In August 2021, the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris’s trip was delayed after reports suggested someone in Hanoi had come down with ‘Havana Syndrome’. While there was little information divulged by the government. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the case was reported before Harris’s departure, but not confirmed. They described having a sensation of pressure in their heads, suffered from nausea and fatigue and also complained of ear pain.
  • But one revelation came as a shock to many. When the brains of some affected people were scanned, the diagnosis revealed tissue damage similar to the one caused by a car accident or a bomb blast.


According to a New York Times report, dozens of “spies and diplomats in Havana now encompasses more than 130 possible cases”. Symptoms of what became known as the Havana syndrome were first reported by CIA officials and State Department employees working at the American embassy in the Cuban capitol in late 2016 . In all, more than two dozen American diplomats and members of their families in Cuba and China and at least 14 Canadian citizens in Havana reportedly have experienced similar symptoms. While the symptoms have resolved for some of the affected employees, for others, the effects have lingered and posed a significant obstacle to their work and affected normal functioning of lives.


Havana syndrome has been reported in India after a CIA officer reported symptoms similar to the mysterious illness during his visit to New Delhi in the month of September 2021.



Marc Polymeropoulos woke up in his hotel room with his head spinning and ears ringing. “I felt like I was going to vomit. I couldn’t stand up. I was falling over,” he recalls. “I have been shot at numerous times and this was the most terrifying experience in my life.”


Well, the cause for Havana syndrome has not been ascertained yet. While investigations are on, the US agencies are still unsure of what causes Havana syndrome. They believed the syndrome was being “intentionally” caused.

At first, Havana syndrome was said to be a “psychogenic illness”. Eventually, a variety of theories started floating to explain the incidents.

From the possibility of targeted microwaves or sonic attack to perhaps an espionage or hacking effort — every possible reason for the cause of this mysterious syndrome has been weighed in but to no avail.

Some scientists proposed theories like “psychological illness”, possibly caused by the stressful environment of foreign missions, according to media reports.

However, in December 2020, a report by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) was published by researchers who analysed the plausible cause of Havana syndrome. The study revealed directed and pulsed radio frequency energy as the most “plausible” cause for this syndrome.

what are ‘microwave weapons’ ?

Microwave weapons” are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target. People exposed to high-intensity microwave pulses have reported a clicking or buzzing sound, as if seeming to be coming from within your head. It can have both acute and long-term effects — without leaving signs of physical damage.


In the 1970s, Prof Lin set to work conducting his experiments at the University of Washington.  He sat on a wooden chair in a small room lined with absorbent materials, an antenna aimed at the back of his head. In his hand he held a light switch. Outside, a colleague sent pulses of microwaves through the antenna at random intervals. If Prof Lin heard a sound, he pressed the switch.

A single pulse sounded like a zip or a clicking finger. A series of pulses like a bird chirping. They were produced in his head rather than as sound waves coming from outside. Prof Lin believed the energy was absorbed by the soft brain tissue and converted to a pressure wave moving inside the head, which was interpreted by the brain as sound. This occurred when high-power microwaves were delivered as pulses rather than in the low-power continuous form you get from a modern microwave oven or other devices

Robert W Baloh, a Professor of Neurology at UCLA, has long studied unexplained health symptoms. When he saw the Havana syndrome reports, he concluded they were a mass psychogenic condition. He compares this to the way people feel sick when they are told they have eaten tainted food even if there was nothing wrong with it – the reverse of the placebo effect. “When you see mass psychogenic illness, there’s usually some stressful underlying situation,” he says. “In the case of Cuba and the mass of the embassy employees – particularly the CIA agents who first were affected – they certainly were in a stressful situation.”


The mystery around Havana syndrome has made people wonder if it even exists. As news of Kamala Harris’s trip delay circulated on the internet, many netizens broke into laughter questioning if Havana syndrome is indeed real or just a made-up phenomenon.

Speaking to NPR media in July this year, CIA Director William Burns said, “I’m certainly persuaded that what our officers and some family members, as well as other US government employees, have experienced is real, and it’s serious.”

He further told the media that he is seriously considering the “very strong possibility” that Havana syndrome is the result of intentional actions.



A study by the National Academies of Sciences, commissioned by the US State Department and released in December 2020, examined the symptoms of about 40 government employees. The panel of 19 experts examined four possibilities to explain the symptoms of Havana syndrome — infection, chemicals, psychological factors and microwave energy.

“An Assessment of Illness in US Government Employees and Their Families at Overseas Embassies says that among the mechanisms the committee considered, directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases, especially in individuals with the distinct early symptoms,” the report said.

“The committee found these cases quite concerning, in part because of the plausible role of directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy as a mechanism, but also because of the significant suffering and debility that has occurred in some of these individuals,” committee chair David Relman, Thomas C. and Joan M were quoted as saying.

Besides this, some researchers also considered microwave weapons to be “a main suspect” for the syndrome.

The study concluded that “directed pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases”.

Without blaming any country, the study noted that “significant research” had been conducted on microwave weapons in Russia/USSR. Moscow has denied any role in the “attacks”.

In January 2018, the Associated Press News reported that a non-public FBI report found no evidence of an intentional sonic attack.


The U.S. State Department says it expelled two Cuban diplomats earlier this year after several Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Havana experienced strange medical symptoms and were either recalled to the U.S. or allowed to come home.


The Senate took action in June, unanimously passing the bipartisan Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act.

While it may take some time to discover what causes Havana syndrome, the act provides additional financial and medical resources for American officials suffering with symptoms.

On September 21, the House followed up, also passing the bill unanimously. “There’s no higher priority than ensuring the safety of our people, and the individuals who’ve served our country now suffering from these troubling health incidents deserve answers and our support,” House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, the leader of the House push, told Politico.

President Biden signed into a law on 6th October 2021 a bill to improve support for U.S. officials who have suffered brain injuries from the mysterious health ailment known as “Havana Syndrome.” The HAVANA Act, the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act was passed unanimously by Congress, in a rare instance of broad bipartisanship.


OCTOBER 08, 2021


 1) https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/what-is-havana-syndrome-symptoms-causes.html

2) https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/what-is-havana-syndrome-us-report-russia-7095390/

3) https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/19/the-mystery-of-the-havana-syndrome

4) https://www.indiatoday.in/science/story/what-havana-syndrome-symptoms-cause-weapon-unknown-illness-us-cia-cuba-1845478-2021-08-26



Jaishree B
Technical Engineer

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