For several weeks, citizens of North Olmstead, Ohio — a small town a few miles west of a NASA research centre — have been plagued by a mysterious force that has blocked their garage openers and car key fobs from functioning. But after many attempts by amateur sleuths and expert technicians to determine the source of the vexation, the problem has been resolved.
According to the New York Times, North Olmstead officials first began receiving reports about the issue in late April. Since then more than a dozen residents of the town and the neighbouring Fairview Park have told authorities about their inability to use garage door openers and key fobs.
Local NBC affiliate WKYC enlisted a retired engineer to survey the area with a spectrum analyser, to no avail. Spectrum cable company, AT&T, and local electric provider FirstEnergy all tried to figure out the source of the issue, according to WKYC.
“They began by shutting off the power in the places where they detected the strongest reading for interfering radio frequencies,” FirstEnergy spokesperson Chris Eck told the New York Times. But the frequency didn’t diminish.
Then finally on Saturday city councilperson Chris Glassburn alerted the public they had found the root of the mysterious frequency. It was coming from the home of a local inventor.
“He has a fascination with electronics,” Glassburn told the Times. The man had built a device that notified him if someone approached his property when he was tinkering in his cellar.
“The way he designed it, it was persistently putting out a 315 megahertz signal,” Glassburn told the Times, which pointed out that 315 megahertz is the frequency that many garage door openers and car fobs use. It was also battery-operated, so shutting off power in the neighbourhood had no effect. The councilperson would not reveal the man’s identity since he has special needs. “There was no malicious intent of the device,” Glassburn told the Times.
The man did not know that his gadget was causing so many headaches in his neighbourhood. But Glassburn and a volunteer electrical expert finally pinned the frequency to his house and knocked on his door to inform him he had been causing widespread disruption for weeks.
The man removed the battery, and life in North Olmstead returned to normal.