Strange howling sound awakens St. Paul: Listen to it here

Was it an animal in distress? Heavy equipment tearing up concrete before dawn? A train accident?

Not that anyone in St. Paul could tell. But a distant, howling scraping sound woke people up about 4 a.m. this morning in St. Paul’s Highland Park and Mac-Groveland neighborhoods.

You can hear it here:

The sound echoed for miles through the city.

Ramsey County dispatchers initially thought it might have been demolition at the site of the former U.S. Bank offices near Highway 5, across the river from Fort Snelling. But they sent officers down to check it out and authorities now think it’s ice shifting on the Mississippi.

The river froze over in the gorge between St. Paul and Minneapolis during the recent cold weather, and it may have started breaking up as the weather warmed up last night.

Officials with the Army Corp of Engineers and the National Park Service, both of which have jurisdiction over the river, said they weren’t initially sure what the noise was, but they’re both listening and might be able to offer a more definitive explanation later.

  • Highland&Sindicate

    What I heard started at about 4AM and ended between 5 and 5:30AM today. It sounded like a bad horn player: drawn out notes and series of notes (not “tunes”) for about 30seconds to a minute I estimate. Quite loud and then it would pause for several minutes. Some of it reminded me of the recordings of whales I’ve heard. Also, I’ve heard distant trains before and sounds from MSP airport but nothing like this…well, it seems that this past summer I heard some early morning strange noise but can’t recall the nature of that sound.

    • River Crossing Tenant

      I live in the River Crossing communities on Davern and W 7th and I heard it around 4:15 am on my way to the bus stop. It actually did sound like whales or something. It was so loud I thought it was coming from the airport. I kept looking back to see if anything Big and Tall was coming up behind me. I would really like to know what it was.

      • Karl Hillstrom

        I heard it in South Minneapolis and agree it sounded like whales. It was a very low long gutteral sound.

    • Tim Nelson, MPR News

      Can I talk to you for the radio? I would like to do a follow up, and want to talk to someone who heard this. Can you call me at 651-315-4900?

      • Sarah K Sawyer

        are you getting any comments from NE MPLS? I heard something very similar–though windier sounding–a few nights ago, and then again last night.

        • dschille

          I heard it last night as well, but I’m in South Saint Paul. It was about 7pm and only lasted a few minutes.

      • Meghan

        We heard it too, in Highland Park (and it woke up our 7-month-old son)! I also described the noise as a loud whale song. We checked around our house, peeked out the window, and thought about calling the police. After about an hour, we drifted back to sleep with this “super natural” symphony. Are you still looking to talk to people who heard this?

      • Timothy Ryan

        Is there anyway it occurred again last night? (Valentine’s night). I heard a large crack, and this noise (faintly) for all of 20 seconds, at 4:00am on the dot (howling sound about 2-3 minutes after the crack). I live in Uptown. It was a very erie feeling.

  • Bobo

    Is was a squatch. They are here. I’ve seen em.

  • Tim Nelson, MPR News

    At long, long last, the sound of Spring!

  • Lower St. Dennis Rd.

    Yes I thought it was a cross between a freight train, a horn player, a dying dog, and some indistinct polka radio station.

  • Sarah

    We heard it in Mendota Heights. It sounded like a band was tuning up, but then would sound like an animal in distress and then it sounded a bit like a boat. Very creepy!

  • Tim Nelson, MPR News

    I was just chatting with KARE 11 photojournalist Aethan Hart, @hartbeat11. He grew up in Duluth and said he’d once heard a sound a little like this coming from the ice on Lake Superior. A little more confirmation, maybe, that this might be weather related.

    • Betty Tisel

      thanks for posting. we were really puzzled here near lake harriet but I bet it was ice shifting when we heard noise like this a month ago. thanks.

      • Suzanne Hennessey

        i also live by lake harriet but i think my son and i heard that sound last summer…?

    • Billy

      Well,,,, Its about to get even deeper then folks.I live in Mississippi outside of Jackson and for about a month now I’ve listened to this exact same noise that everyone is describing here.first thought it was wind also,but then I heard it and there was no wind. It does seem to be louder with the wind sometimes but other times not.I didn’t say anything about this to anyone at first then I started hearing it when I wasn’t just at home then I asked a few others about this and if they could hear this as the sounds were then making,there response was ” I think I hear something or i don’t know ” as I got some strange looks.I started looking it up here on the internet but found nothing until I came across this.So the plot now thickens.

      • Billy

        I should mention also that there has not been any freezing of the water or lakes in Jackson,Ms.We may have had a 1/4” of snow if that. I haven’t heard the sound in a few days now.guessing it moved to Minnesota something about Mississippi though

        • Billy

          I hear the noise tonight 2/14/14 after 11 p.m. almost midnight its 60 deg. I hear this all the time if you are directions I’ll give them to you this is really happening here folks leave me a message here under this one if interested. I should say that this is not a trumpet or a horn sound its more like the description another person used that committed on may remember this tube that you could whirl in the air and it made a ^%#&^@% sound.I don’t know what kind of a sound it is its definitely a frequency that varies in pitch. I just wish others would here this too. I would leave my # but I would probably get some CRAZIES so I better not…… I’ll check back tomorrow.


            I live in TN and here the noises too. I think it’s haarp… or maybe they are building another underground city.

    • V

      I go ice fishing alot and hear the ice cracking and shifting often, that noise did’nt sound like like.

  • Eric Nelson


  • Sarah K Sawyer

    I heard it NE, not too far from the river. It’ had more of a wind/howl sound to it, but that’s what it was. SO BIZARRE!

    • Theresa

      It started right around 4:15 am and at first I thought it was airport noise, I actually went outdoors trying to pinpoint where it was coming from. Looked up and down the street, up and down our alley… It moaned and groaned and the pitch went up and down, the sound rising and falling. Lasted for nearly an hour. At 6 when my husband and I checked our email we had heard from neighbors in the Hamline/Randolph area who also had heard it. My daughter over near Nokomis heard it as well and thought the neighbors were playing whale sounds from their apartment. It was that loud.

  • Dennis

    Nothing to get excited about. It is just the sound of the wind whipping through empty downtown St.Paul streets after 5 p.m.

    • Twinny

      You obviously haven’t been to downtown in years. Your joke is stale and shows you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.


      A longtime downtown/Lowertown resident.

      • Dennis

        I get on a bus after 6pm at 6th and Wabasha very often. The streets are lightly traveled by pedestrians and the skyway storefronts are closed. Leave Lowertown and you would see what I am talking about. Still some truth to what I was joking about. I hope the Green line helps to bring more people downtown.

  • Guest

    I’m pretty sure I heard this last night, in South Saint Paul, around 7pm. It only lasted a few minutes though.

  • Betty Tisel

    heard that same sound in south minneapolis about a month ago (as did many neighbors). I bet it was Lake Harriet ice shifting around.

  • Deb

    This woke my 15 month old son and me up at about 4:30 am in the Highland Park neighborhood. It sounded like a bad band rehearsal or metal scraping on metal. My husband thought I was nuts! Pretty cool that it was likely from the ice shifting. Mother nature at her best.

  • BB

    Just plain happy to learn it wasn’t just the voices/music in my head. It was about as eerie as it gets…

  • Jeremy David Hutson

    It sounds like wind going through the mountains of scrap metal at the Ford Plant to me.

  • Alan

    Don’t know what the weather has been like in St Paul, but it might be the steel blade of a grader on street pavement–have often heard a similar howling in Duluth, after a snow.

  • BB

    I have to say – the idea that it was the wind in the scrap at the Ford Plant is an interesting one – that’s where I thought it was coming from in the first place – that they were doing demolition at 4:00 am. (The buildings in which I live are less than a block away from the plant.)

  • C Zinniel

    I live right across from Minnehaha Falls and it woke me up at about 4:25 until around 5:30. It sounded to me like someone playing a horn/band instrument. And then I thought for awhile that it sounded like an animal howling. It was so eerie and I wondered all day what on earth it was until I saw this posting. At least now I know Im not going crazy!

  • Ann

    Live in Highland Park- Yes, horn player, whales sounds,The Baskerville Hounds- all went through my mind at 4:00 am. I think I could tell it was coming from the southwest of where I live.

  • Surprise

    I acutally run at 4AM in highland Park and heard it much more loudly near the plant. It was strange because it was not windy but sounded like wind. First i thought it was those inconsiderate paper delivery people with their music on 11!

  • Lori Raduenz

    I thought it was my hot water heat pipes…. or aliens. Too lazy to get up and open the door. So glad I saw your post.

  • Trill de Blasio

    Not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens.

  • Rich

    It’s the ice shifting, I lived in Duluth for most of my 35yr life and I’ve heard that same sound coming from th bay of Lake Superior when the temps rise

  • Beth Royalty

    I live in Mac-Groveland and heard it between 5am and 5:30am. It was howling, eerie, musical, mysterious all at the same time. I would also compare it to the sounds of whales I’ve heard in recordings.

  • BW Band

    The band Bigfoot Whale was practicing, they really have a great hipster sound.

  • Timothy

    I live on West 7th near the over pass bridge Rt 5, I woke up around 4:15 and went outside to listen, It sounded like someone was using a Shofar more then Ice cracking, I grew up near lakes and rivers and this is the first I have heard something like this

  • Bob B.

    I was surprised to hear it because in my advanced years my hearing isn’t what it once was. I went downstairs at about 5 a.m. and opened the back door to hear better. I could indeed hear it better but it was still indistinct. It seemed to be coming from the south, which gibes with the river gorge ice movement explanation. I wondered if some amplified music was carrying a great distance so that the sound was distorted, but at that hour? A prank? I described it to my wife as the sound of a big calliope or pipe organ on which the keys in the lower register were being randomly struck. An eerie groaning.

    • killershrew

      I thought it sounded like a pipe organ, too! Glad to hear someone else finally say that – everyone has been saying dying whales.

  • aliensporebomb

    It actually sounds like one of those plastic flexible several foot long tubes you whirl over your head and it makes a kind of atmospheric howling type sound. Strange. Maybe it’s the rarely heard Mississippi River Ice Weasel.

    • Billy

      It does sound like that, That’s a good description.

  • doug

    I think its the windego. Ancient evil spirit.

  • MermaidsRock

    Screw Ze Whales Free Ze Mermaids!
    Dare Frozen, under zem ice!

  • Jack

    Just creepy!

  • 55116curious

    Any one have audio of this that doesn’t require flash player? I heard it this morning near the 5 bridge to the airport around 5:20am today. I’d like to compare what I herd.

    • 55116curious

      I found a way to listen to the flash recording, and it is what I heard in my house by fort sneiling around 5:20am. The funny thing is that I could hear it all the way into my bathroom, and I just figured it was an odd wind. My three year old told me the night before about hearing “yetis” outside, and I thought to myself while hearing this and getting ready to get in the shower, “jesus, I could see why a kid would be weirded out by the sounds of the wind” I think my three year old tipped me off to the fact that this audio maybe happened also the morning/evening before. Any credible reports Wednesday?

      Also BRAVO to the quick thinking person who recorded this!

      Also tell stories to your children of the deep winter sounds of the yeti in Saint Paul by the river. We’re cutting through a hard winter, and I want a story or two to pass down about one of the coldest.

  • Conway

    I live in Mendota Heights, the sound woke me up last night at around 4:45!

  • Billy

    Well,,,, Its about to get even deeper then folks.I live in Mississippi outside of Jackson and for about a month now I’ve listened to this exact same noise that everyone is describing here.first thought it was wind also,but then I heard it and there was no wind. It does seem to be louder with the wind sometimes but other times not.I didn’t say anything about this to anyone at first then I started hearing it when I wasn’t just at home then I asked a few others about this and if they could hear this as the sounds were then making,there response was ” I think I hear something or i don’t know ” as I got some strange looks.I started looking it up here on the internet but found nothing until I came across this.So the plot now thickens.

  • Aggie Scientist

    A huge earthquake is imminent along the New Madrid faultline. Prepare. It will be bad.

  • MJI

    That musical hum that it makes towards the end :19 and after, sounds eerily familiar. I live downtown. Not right by the river, but a few blocks from it. I’ve been hearing a very similar sound to that nearly every night some weeks. I thought it was trucks unloading or driving by, but it was too consistant. Then I thought maybe coming from a building. But what kind of structure would sound like that?? I am still wondering if it is something mechanical, but if it is ice, that would make sense. I’ll have to see if I hear it in the summer too. (that would mean mechanical)

    • MJI

      Just adding this is downtown St. Paul. The sound when it happens is fairly consistent. There will be the sound like two or three times a night, then it’s gone. I nearly always notice it at night or very early morning. Though I might have heard it in the day too, now that I think of it. I thought it was an odd sound, but dismissed it for pigeons cooing or something going on outside.

  • MJI

    Just heard a sound like it right now. Like 5 min ago. But I also hear construction equipment going, so that might me it.

    • MJI

      *typo. ‘be’ I type poorly when tired.

  • birdman

    I live in St Paul. I did not here this particular noise but a little over a year ago I was up around 3 am and heard a similar noise (same pitch) but louder and in a different pattern., Sounded like a metallic/trumpet/whale like sound. It reminded me of a siren but definitely not a siren. I went outside to get a better listen and it gave me the chills to hear it.

  • artrat


  • James Ave, St. Paul

    What has changed from last year to create a sudden hearing of these noises? Colder weather, no Ford Plant and the light rail moving in. So what could cause the noise to be heard now? Deeper ice on the river? The St. Paul Ford Plant buildings being removed that may have buffered the noise from the river in the past? The metal heaps at the Ford Plant location causing weird wind tunnels? Or the light rail tracks creating some type of wind tunnel? Whatever the cause, I will be listening a little closer now at 4am.