Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
This skyscraper has made an unsettling noise for years. Then the Internet took over.
The denizens of Manchester received yet another fright at the end of last month, as gale force winds activated the city’s very special screaming skyscraper.
The Beetham Tower, which at 554 feet is the tallest building in the U.K. outside of London, has for years produced a strange and deeply unsettling “howl,” alternately described as a “scream,” a “wail,” a “hum,” and a “spooky noise.” It is as if a large and ancient Mancunian spirit is running its delicate finger along the top of a monstrous wine glass. Here, listen in:
In 2012, six years after the skyscraper was completed, tower architect Ian Simpson apologized for the noise after the city received complaints that it was keeping residents up at night. The sound, Simpson told the Manchester Evening News at the time, is “created by wind passing over glass fins on the blade at the top of the tower.” The blade is decorative, Simpson said, and promised he was working with acoustic specialists to determine a way forward.
That was nearly four years ago. Luckily, Mancunians seem to have developed a sense of humor about the whole thing. After the latest screaming incident in November, local musician Martin Johnson sampled the Beetham Tower whistle in a remix of British dance group Faithless’s 2007 hit “Insomnia.” (The real action starts around the 1:50 mark.)
Two Beetham Tower Twitter accounts, Happy Beetham and Sad Beetham, appear to be locked in an eternal war over which part of the skyscraper’s personality is responsible for the hum.
Night night humans, I'll try not to sings too much in my sleeps 😴— Happy Beetham! (@HappyBeetham) November 17, 2015
BEETHAM MAKE SUPER NOISE. MAKE YOUR PUNY EARS FALL OFF.— Angry Beetham (@AngryBeetham) November 29, 2015
Angry Beetham really hates that Faithless remix.
The Evening News reports that engineers “have scaled the 47-floor tower” multiple times to modify the building to reduce its screams. Clearly, the answer isn't blowing in the wind.
To all the tourists in Manchester; it's not an air raid siren, you're not being abducted, it's just the Beetham Tower having a whinge.— Ciaran Watkins (@CiaranWatkins) November 29, 2015