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Dublin: 1°C Saturday 23 January 2021

Sitdown Sunday: The strange hum that's being heard around the world

Grab a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. The life and murder of Stella Walsh

Source: Rob Lucas/YouTube

In the 1930s, Stella Walsh was an Olympic champion. But in 1980, she met a tragic end. Here’s her story.

(Longreads, approx 81 mins reading time)

Walsh was unconscious when a policeman working security inside Uncle Bill’s found her face down in the parking lot. As the officer turned her over, a wig fell off, and he recognized it was Stella Walsh. He asked for an ambulance to be called, but the nearest one had a flat tire, which created a delay in her care. Instead, a police station wagon came for Walsh, and officers took her to St. Alexis Hospital, less than a mile away, where she died on the operating table. A hospital inventory of her personal property included $248.17 in cash, a 1932 Olympic ring, and a pair of falsies, as they were called, for padding her bra.

2. The strange hum

This BBC video looks at the appearance of a weird hum that’s being heard by people in different countries – what is it? And where is it coming from?

(BBC, 12 mins viewing time)

I first heard the hum 15 years ago. It sounds to me the sound of a speaker with the volume’s been left up but there’s no music playing. The hum that comes from that, that’s the sound it is to me.

3. The super-recognisers

shutterstock_295656557 Source: Shutterstock/singh_lens

New Scotland Yard has a small room that’s home to the super-recognisers – people who all “have a preternatural ability to recognise human faces”.

(New Yorker, approx 37 mins reading time)

When the transit police brought the groper case to the super-recognizers, Eliot Porritt, a detective sergeant in the unit, took up the investigation. Porritt, who is thirty-six, is rumpled and cerebral, with a mop of curly black hair. As a boy, he loved watching movies with his father, and found that he could identify actors who had been in other films they’d seen, even in tiny parts. As a police officer—first as a beat cop in Islington, and then working plainclothes on a robbery squad—he discovered that while walking the streets he could spot faces and know, in a flash, who they were, where he had met them, and whether they were criminal suspects.

4. From pub to Starbucks

shutterstock_238209706 Source: Shutterstock/Sergey Kohl

The great Irish blog Come Here To Me looks at the White Horse pub on George’s Quay, which is now a Starbucks. It’s a fascinating look back at the changing face of Dublin too.

(Come Here To Me, approx 32 mins reading time)

As The White Horse, it was a popular haunt from the 1950s to the 1970s for the city’s journalist and literary set due mainly to its close proximity to the Irish Press building. In the 1980s and 1990s, its upstairs ‘Attic’ venue played an important role in Dublin’s rock and alternative music scenes. A relatively unknown Californian punk band called Green Day played there to less than 40 people in December 1991 at a gig organised by the pioneering Hope Collective.

5. She made her sick

Dee Dee Blancharde was a single mother who looked after her daughter Gypsy Rose. Gypsy was quite frequently sick, and Dee Dee was her caretaker. Only there was something odd about Gypsy’s illness.

(Buzzfeed, approx 44 mins reading time)

Gypsy had the mind of a child of 7, Dee Dee said. It was important to remember that in dealing with her. She loved princess outfits and dressing up. She wore wigs and hats to cover her small head. A curly, blonde Cinderella number seems to have been her favorite. She’s wearing it in so many photographs of herself with her mother. She was always with her mother. “We are a pair of shoes,” Gypsy once said. “Never good without the other.”

6. Fighting back

shutterstock_403810993 Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Parents start fighting back against California’s child protective services, who are trying to take their kids into their custody.

(The Atavist, approx 50 mins reading time)

When Randy walked through the front door, he found Danyelle lying on the living room floor in a fetal position. He lay down beside his wife, and they stayed there awhile, holding each other, sobbing. They couldn’t understand how a stranger could take their kids after just ten minutes in their home, no warrant, no formal review, no time to tell their side of the story. Randy hugged his wife close and whispered, “When this is over, we’re going to sue the shit out of these people.”


This 2015 profile looks at Steve Bannon of Breitbart, an American conservative and businessman who Donald Trump has called in to work on his campaign.

(Bloomberg, approx 33 mins reading time)

Bannon, an ex-Goldman Sachs banker, is the sort of character who would stand out anywhere, but especially in the drab environs of Washington. A mile-a-minute talker who thrums with energy, his sentences speed off ahead of him and spin out into great pileups of nouns, verbs, and grins. With his swept-back blond hair and partiality to cargo shorts and flip-flops, he looks like Jeff Spicoli after a few decades of hard living, and he employs “dude” just as readily.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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