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From Vice World News: The ‘Havana Syndrome’ Podcast (Review)

Of all the global events which have surfaced in our news feeds in the last ten years, few are as enigmatic as the cluster of mysterious health issues suffered by dozens of United States operatives stationed abroad, which are commonly referred to as “Havana Syndrome.”

An ill-fitting term picked by the press and popular culture, since reports of State Department attachés (and CIA agents working undercover) affected by something which is literally capable of leaving permanent brain injuries, have been gathered from all around the world.

But who is behind these ‘attacks’, and —the most puzzling question which has remained unanswered so far— what can create these anomalous injuries without leaving any trace evidence, aside from strange noises resembling the buzzing of insects which are sometimes (but not always) heard by the victims? This is what Vice’s 2023 podcast “Havana Syndrome” sets out to answer.


‘Havana Syndrome’ is a six-part podcast series with each episode lasting around 40 minutes each, featuring Jon Lee Anderson and Adam Entous. Professionally produced, as you would expect from a media company like Vice, the episodes sometimes make you feel like you are listening to a spy audiobook novel, as the listener is following on the footsteps of Anderson and Entous (the ‘young gun’ and the seasoned reporter who witnessed the fall of the Cold War) as they travel to Havana and other countries to set the scene of the events which started to transpire in 2017 —not long after the Obama administration had achieved the historic reestablishment of diplomatic relationships between the Americans and the Cubans, their old Cold War enemies— and interview first-hand victims of what Intelligence operatives in Cuba initially referred to as “the thing;”  which was reportedly affecting a few of the US personnel stationed in the Caribbean nation, not long after Trump won the presidency. A handful of these individuals agree to go on the record with their real name, while some of them —the ones who worked as ‘spooks’ for the CIA— use a pseudonym to remain anonymous.

Aside from giving excellent historical context of the thorny relationships between the US and Cuba before, during, and after the Castro revolution, and how the Obama administration quietly began secret negotiations in Canada to ‘melt things’ and try to bring this old Cold War feud to a much needed closure, Anderson and Entous also manage to interview some of the former heads of Intelligence who were in charge of trying to figure out what was going on with these reports of debilitating health issues, which left individuals with long lasting side effects that damaged their careers and lives forever. Reports which slowly arose to the attention of the government, partly due to a natural human reaction of not knowing how to deal with an unknown situation (what do you do when you suddenly realize the headaches you’re experiencing are not a flu and that you cannot even concentrate enough to read an email? Do you keep quiet or reach out to your superiors?) but later —as the mounting evidence pointed to a real threat of unknown origin— due to an intentional coverup to try to contain the situation, and not cause unnecessary widespread panic among other US personnel stationed in other countries, and the American public in general.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton is among the “cold warriors” who go on the record in the podcast, to express their suspicions of who might have been behind these events —do I have to spell it out for you? It starts with “R”— and in other episodes the podcast explores the nebulous scientific side of the Havana syndrome mystery: what type of covert technological developments could have been achieved by the two Cold War adversaries (on both sides of the Atlantic) in the realms of directed energy weaponry and pulsed microwave radiation, that could answer for the distinct symptoms encountered in the brains of the victims.

As a podcast listener, ‘Havana Syndrome’ was deeply entertaining, informative, and quite possibly the closest we have ever gotten to learning the truth about this modern mystery.

Garry Nolan, PhD.

As a Fortean and student of paranormal phenomena, on the other hand, I was disappointed by the fact the series decided not to explore recent revelations connecting the syndrome with the UFO phenomenon. Since 2021, Dr. Garry Nolan has given numerous interviews in which he revealed how he was ‘enrolled’ by some unnamed Intelligence agency (possibly the CIA, due to his connections with Christopher “Kit” Green) to conduct a study on the health problems reported by witnesses who were in close proximity to a UFO event.

The study ended abruptly, according to Nolan, once he managed to determine the injuries presented in some of the people he studied were almost identical to those of the victims of Havana syndrome.

“Oranges and apples,” Anderson and Entous might quip. After all, their investigation is centered on something serious that not only deeply affected the lives of several individuals, but also strained the relationships between two or more countries and reverted the US-Cuban diplomacy back to the 1960s. In one of the episodes Entous even mockingly said in one of the episodes that Havana syndrome risked falling into the same category of “UFOs and Bigfoot” as a weird unsolved mystery; forgetting for a while he’s producing a show for the same company that also covers things like the latest trends in sex toys…

With all due respect: This is 2024, not 2014. Whether reputable journalists like it or not, things have changed and the UFO phenomenon has become a valid part of public conversation due to not only its paradigm-changing potential, but also because it has been effectively used to cover a wide range of counter-intelligence activity, which the public has been slowly becoming aware of after the Biden administration began to track —and occasionally shoot down— surveillance platforms which in previous years would have been dismissed as anomalous targets of no consequence.

Here is a list of commonalities Havana syndrome shares with the UFO mystery:

  • Both are global in scope.
  • Intelligence agencies and government officials have tried to sweep both under the rug… unsuccessfully.
  • Both have been ascribed to enemies of the United States at one point or another.
  • Both have engendered (unconfirmed) rumors of secret technological breakthroughs which have not been openly shared with the public.
  • As in with the UFO phenomenon, a large majority of supposed Havana syndrome cases gathered by the government can be solved through less exotic means, like the result of psychogenic effects (mass hysteria) while still leaving a good number of reports which a truly anomalous and unexplained.
  • And the most important of all:. People got hurt by both mysteries. Not just physically but also psychologically due to a stigma fostered by people in power, who have tried to deal with the situation by questioning the credibility of those who have been affected by them.

“Intelligence is an imperfect science. It’s what you know, and it can change in the blink of an eye.” This was said to Entous by one of his Intelligence sources, and few things can change what you know (or believe you know) more dramatically than UFOs. Nolan is a respected scientist with high credentials in his field, so if he has found further information which links Havana syndrome injuries with negative effects caused by a UFO encounter, then no avenue should be left unexplored if it means finding a way to help those who have been injured and protecting future potential victims.

The Havana syndrome mystery remains unsolved, as Anderson and Entous candidly admit by the end of the series. If you haven’t solved the case through normal methods, maybe it is time to try the unconventional ones.

You can listen to “Havana Syndrome” through Spotify or other popular podcast streaming platforms.

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