In 2017, US diplomats left Cuba after claims of a ‘sonic attack.’ Could the sounds have come from crickets?

The US Embassy in Havana.
The US Embassy in Havana.Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images/File 2017

More than half of the US Embassy staff in Havana left last year when nearly two dozen people were injured by mysterious sounds. The State Department issued an advisory warning to US citizens traveling to Cuba. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the diplomats were injured by “deliberate attacks.”

Now, a pair of scientists say they’ve analyzed a recording of the mystery sound and hear the distinct tone of a Caribbean cricket.

Alexander L. Stubbs and Fernando Montealegre-Z released an early version of a study they performed on the recording released by the Associated Press of the sound linked to the attacks.


“The calling song of the Indies short-tailed cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus) matches, in nuanced detail, the AP recording in duration, pulse repetition rate, power spectrum, pulse rate stability, and oscillations per pulse,” the scienists wrote in the paper published Friday.

The researchers cautioned that while they couldn’t be certain of the cause of the diplomats’ health problems, they thought the recording provided “strong evidence” that an echoing cricket call, rather than a sonic attack or some kind of device, was what caused the sound in the recording.

More than a year ago, Cuba had presented a detailed defense against having produced the so-called sonic attacks and cited unnamed researchers who had found that cricket noises could be damaging to humans at a high-enough volume. The FBI had blamed Cuba

Peter Bailey-Wells can be reached at peter.bailey-wells@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells.