Sweet smell of biological warfare?

By the way, a week later we’re still trying to figure out what this was all about, and we note with trepidation that there have been no follow-up stories. WW4 Report‘s chief blogger became aware of the smell at around 7.30 PM Oct. 28 on Whitehall Street in the Financial District. It was still evident, although fainter, upon arriving by bicycle in the Lower East Side, some two miles uptown. The immediate association for this observer was butterscotch. Is it just us, or does anyone else think it might have been a clandestine test of a dispersal agent to simulate bio-chemical attack, such as have been held (overtly) in the city in recent weeks? Or, ominously, an actual attack with some kind of slow-acting bio-chem agent? From the NY Times, Oct. 29:

Good Smell Vanishes, But It Leaves Air of Mystery
The night air all over Manhattan was brisk, with a hint of winter and a dash of something sweetly out of the ordinary. Some thought it smelled like maple syrup. Some said caramel, or a freshly baked pie, or Bit-O-Honey candy bars.

From downtown Manhattan to the Upper East Side, Prospect Heights in Brooklyn and parts of Staten Island, the question was the same on Thursday night and into early yesterday: What was that smell?

The aroma not only revived memories of childhood, but in a city scared by terrorism, it raised vague worries about an attack deviously cloaked in the smell of grandma’s kitchen.

It was so seductive that many New Yorkers found themselves behaving strangely, succumbing to urges usually kept under wraps. One woman who never touches the stuff said she was inspired to eat ice cream.

Late yesterday, nearly 24 hours after the smell had spread through the city, sparking hundreds of bewildered calls to the city’s 311 emergency hot line, officials said that they had determined that the smell had not been hazardous and that it had dissipated as quickly, and mysteriously, as it had appeared.

Even after chasing down anonymous tips and chasing up several blind alleys, however, they did not know where it had come from.

The odor was first detected around 8 p.m. on Thursday in Lower Manhattan. It seemed to spread quickly uptown and into parts of the other boroughs – so quickly that officials expressed concern. The city’s Office of Emergency Management sent out feelers to the Police and Fire Departments, state emergency response agencies in New York and New Jersey, and the United States Coast Guard, which communicated with tugboats and container ships at sea to determine whether the odor was being detected there.

Raymond W. Kelly, the New York City police commissioner, coolly told reporters yesterday that tests and air monitoring had revealed “nothing of a hazardous nature.”

“It’s believed to be some sort of food substance, but we can’t substantiate that at this time,” Mr. Kelly said. He confirmed that the source of the smell seemed to be in Lower Manhattan.

The chase led the city’s environmental bloodhounds to some interesting places. Investigators working on a tip checked the Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven in SoHo, but the owner insisted he had not been the culprit. His staff had spent the afternoon roasting almonds, he said. And anyway, chocolate, for those who really know, smells bitter, not sweet.

“Perhaps if it was a chocolate smell, people would be running here today,” Mr. Torres said from his shop, which he said was no busier than normal for a Friday in autumn. His chef, Susana Garcia, 31, who was on duty Thursday, said the mysterious odor was definitely more like maple syrup than like chocolate. It was, Mr. Torres said, a kind of warm-your-heart holiday smell appropriate for this time of year.

If there was anyone in New York who could recognize the aroma of maple syrup, it would be a Canadian like Jeff Breithaupt, 42, cultural affairs officer at the Canadian Consulate in New York. He said he was out running on the Upper East Side last night when the smell came to him. Right away, he thought it was caramel candy.

A labor organizer, Rekha Eanni, said she could not characterize the exact smell, but after getting out of a night class at New York University she was overcome with a craving for pumpkin pie. When she got home there was no pie, so she did something she never does.

“I made myself a pretty big bowl of vanilla ice cream with honey and cornflakes,” she said.

Experts say that no human sense is more directly connected to the emotions than the sense of smell. “Before we know we are even in contact with a smell we have already received it and reacted to it,” a professional perfumer, Mandy Aftel, said. “Smells come in without language and go directly to the emotional center of the brain. That’s why they are so connected to memory.”

As soon as he smelled the mystery smell, Greg Nickson, 45, a freelance cameraman, was transported, like Marcel Proust, to things past, things like the chocolate factory that flooded his childhood neighborhood in Chicago with sweet aromas.

When he poked his head out of his 10th-floor apartment window to look for his wife, Mr. Nickson got a good whiff of it, and it puzzled him.

“I thought,” he said. ” ‘How could the smell be so pervasive?’ ”

With the cold nighttime air trapped under a lid of warm air over the city, and only a 3-mile-an-hour wind, any odor would have been kept low to the ground, where it could have slipped between buildings to work its way uptown and to the other boroughs, said Patrick Kinney, an associate professor of environmental science at Columbia University.

When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was asked at City Hall about the smell, he repeated that tests showed it was not dangerous.

With the mayor enjoying a sizable lead in polls about the upcoming election, someone asked whether it struck him as, perhaps, the sweet smell of success.

He gave an enigmatic answer. “Nature,” the mayor said, “should be allowed to take care of its own.”

  1. relax
    >Is it just us, or does anyone else think it might have been a clandestine test of a dispersal agent to simulate bio-chemical attack, such as have been held (overtly) in the city in recent weeks? Or, ominously, an actual attack with some kind of slow-acting bio-chem agent?

    Does the phrase ‘tin foil hat’ ring a bell. This story was covered extensively in all local media. There’s enough to be paranoid about witout compromising the usual standards of ww4report. My guess: New Jersey swamp gas smelling, for reasons known only to mother nature, good for a change. Of course, it could have been the CIA / Al Qaida / Illuminati / Bloomberg campaign or any combination of above.

    1. “Swamp gas”?
      I am making no dogamtic claims, just raising questions—and valid ones, given the recent history of such experiments in New York. The “swamp gas” theory is far less probable…

      1. respectfully disagree
        >The “swamp gas” theory is far less probable…

        >clandestine test of a dispersal agent to simulate bio-chemical attack

        I would have to disagree. Except for not fitting into a conspiracy theory why is the “The “swamp gas” theory is ‘far less probable’…” The texture of the smell? The dispersion of the smell?

        Where’s the motivation for a ‘clandestine test of a dispersal agent to simulate bio-chemical attack’? Genuine altruistic public health concerns? Evil plot? Is there other evidence, or is this a case of guilty until proven innocent? If it is clandestine, then who is lurking in the shadows? Local law inforcement? NSA biowarfare unit?

        Either way, too little information to qualify as more than speculation.

        1. Ever hear of Occam’s Razor?
          Yes, it is speculation. Since we have virtually no information, any hypothesis is speculation. Your “swamp gas” is speculation too. The question is which speculation is most probable. The notion that “swamp gas” blew over from the Meadowlands, ten miles away, smelling like cookies is pretty damn improbable. Whereas, we know for a fact that the feds were testing dispersal agents in the city earlier this year. I don’t understand your skepticism, and I think you need a shave.

          1. Why the troll?
            >”swamp gas” blew over from the Meadowlands, ten miles away, smelling like cookies

            This is more improbable how? Ask any New York City native, swamp gas comes over from Jersey periodically. It usually smells foul, but different kinds of foul. Given the press coverage of checking donut factories etc … we can or can’t rule out industrial discharge. I understand Occam’s Razor and think your link in the post is trolling.

            You have no info. It makes it very easy to goof on you as a ‘tin foil hat type’ (see for instance the other posts in this thread ‘marketing campaign'(?)). We know the Feds were testing dispersal agents in the past. Why do a top-secret coverup and deny and have NYPD etc … deny?

            Did you read your link?
            ” The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed”

            Do you have any information besides paranoia that this is more than unexplained? Your evidence is no more than an assumption that ‘mysterious forces’ are at work and that equals the usual bad guys, not nature.

            Your assertion that ‘swamp gas’ is more improbable than ‘black helecopters’ is, IMHO, sloppy thinking. I maintain it is more probable than the CIA or an EPA mistake. Stick to what you’re good at and avoid being lumped in with the ranters.

            1. Why a duck?
              Dude, I am a native New Yorker. What about you? I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never smelled “swamp gas” before. And I’ve never known samp gas anywhere to smell like waffles! I have put forth no “assumptions”—only conjecture. My prob with the tin-foil hat crew is that they treat conjecture as assumption. I engage in no such subterfuge. But it is an equal and opposite error to deny that the government is up to lots of sinister stuff and often works in secret. Click on the word “overtly” in the original post and follow the links back to read up on what has been going on in this city over the past several months. It seems like you need to get up to speed.

              1. >Dude, I am a native New York
                >Dude, I am a native New Yorker. What about you?

                Born in Manhattan.

                >I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never smelled “swamp gas” before. And I’ve never known samp gas anywhere to smell like waffles!

                Incredibly hard to believe. We get fumes from Jersey occasionally, especially in the summer.

                I read your previous post. It makes my point.

                >The irony is that what the government had to do covertly during the Cold War it is now able to do overtly in the post-9-11 atmosphere…

                So why lie now? As a psyop to see if anyone notices? To have fun with baked goods? All speculative.

                >But it is an equal and opposite error to deny that the government is up to lots of sinister stuff and often works in secret.

                Agree. My point being that, without any evidence, the statement:

                >Or, ominously, an actual attack with some kind of slow-acting bio-chem agent?

                Strays from the actual analysis of what is known and puts you temporarily closer to the ‘tin foil hat’ types. Is there any evidence for this besides conjecture? What it leads to is (see the other posts in this thread) people goofing on you and makes real analysis easier to discredit.

                If evidence arrives that this is EPA idiots (they will be pilloried in the mainstream press) or something more evil (huge scary scandle) there will be a story here.

                1. Butterscotch swamp gas?
                  Last time around it was not the EPA. It was Homeland Security, the Pentagon and the Energy Department. Back in the Cold War, they used real biological agents on US cities (covertly), intentionally giving people “harmless” headcolds so they could track the contagion pattern. All documented. Check our earlier posts. There is nothing irresponsible about my speculation (or “conjecture,” as you put it). Your swamp gas is also pure conjecture, and far less likely. I am making no assertions. Do you know what a question mark means?

                  1. no evidence
                    >Your swamp gas is also pure conjecture, and far less likely.

                    You make no argument for this, only an assumed intelectual superiority. You don’t respond to my opinion that speculation of the tin-foil type without any evidence makes you look goofy. You ignore my point that the only other two posts in this thread are goofing on you. Your main argument seems to be talking down:

                    >Do you know what a question mark means?

                    Do you know what a troll is?

                    Let’s just agree to disagree on this one. For a further thread, although I would take it off the blog: Why is it so easy to get a response when the opportunity presents itself to be insulting, and takes weeks when something constructive is being discussed?

                    NRN – which, for your info, is netspeak for ‘no response necessary’.
                    Too much going on in France to discuss this non-story.

  2. New Marketing strategy?
    Then again maybe this is a new marketing strategy to boost sales in the coming shopping season, what with the strong emotional effects such sweet smells have on people. If it is, I think I’d be lobbying my councilmen to ban the practice in my city as being both unsolicited and overly invasive, and not to mention untraceable. At the very least require companies using this technique to get a very explicit permit.

  3. The smell is caused by a…
    The smell is caused by a component, (benzoic acid), of a new anti-freeze solution they spray on sidewalks and streets to keep ice from coating them.

  4. It strikes again
    AP reports via Newsday Dec. 9 that “there’s still no rational explanation for the maple syrup aroma that wafted Thursday across Manhattan, the second such olfactory incident since October. Calls to the city’s 311 help line and the Fire Department reported the pleasant scent around 3:30 p.m. in neighborhoods from midtown to the upper East and West Sides.”

    “It seems to be the same odor that people detected in late October,” city Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Ian Michaels said Friday. The agency sent out its hazardous materials team to take instant readings of the air from neighborhoods where the calls originated, but nothing dangerous was found.

    Air samples brought in for additional testing were also negative, Michaels said: “It is once again a mystery. It seems to be gone.” On Oct. 27, the maple scent was reported more near the southern tip of Manhattan, with calls coming in from around City Hall and Chelsea—although some calls did come in from the Upper West Side, about 10 miles to the north.

    …Similar tests done after the October sniffings never uncovered the source of that aroma, either.

    1. A likely theory
      The New York Times Jan. 5 presented a likely explanation for the two olfactory incidents:

      Speculation fell on the Garden State, a historic center in the production of fragrance, flavor and hoary olfaction jokes… The evidence appears to be mounting: the earliest recorded calls for the October incident came not from New York, but from New Jersey. And a recent odor pocket was noticed by several people in Hoboken… The smell came on at least two dates: Oct. 27 and Dec. 8, both Thursdays, in the late afternoon or early evening. On both days, the barometric pressure was high, and the wind was blowing lightly from the west, about 10 miles an hour or less, according to data compiled by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University…

      In New Jersey, in places like South Hackensack, Teterboro, Newark and North Bergen, the smells of ginseng or strawberry or rhubarb root often fill noses, and few give it a second thought. As Eric Schlosser noted in his 2001 book, “Fast Food Nation,” northern New Jersey produces “about two-thirds of the flavor additives sold in the United States.” The world’s largest flavor company, International Flavor & Fragrances, has two plants in New Jersey, in Hazlet (Monmouth County) and Dayton (Middlesex County).

      Veronique Ferval, the company’s director of fragrance development, said that it was unlikely that her company produced the smell, but said she was thrilled with the idea. “From our perspective, it’s very positive,” she said. “It could be a new form of art. Scent is really underpresented.”

  5. Stink Investigation Uncovers Israeli Plot!
    From Carl Hultberg’s RagMag e-list:

    I knew I smelled those guys… Wouldn’t you know it, just as folks had begun to suspect a terrorist connection in the NYC mysterious smell mystery, the truth drifted out. Sniffed out rather, by NYPD’s elite Maple Syrup Event Investigation Unit. (Is this all funded by the War on Terror? I hope so.) The unit finally solved the case of the sweet odor that occasionally could be detected in the air on the West Side of Manhattan. Some called it pleasant, like maple syrup. Others knew that was probably just a cover up, a way to mask something far far worse… And now, we know for sure. Like most things that don’t smell right in NYC, this odor has an origin in New Jersey. The authorities say the culprit is a fragrance factory in North Bergen: Frutarom, which, according to the New York Times: “is based in Israel.” Ahah! The long arm and the gloved hand of Mossad have never been caught so red handed! Fenugreek seeds, my ptooey. Wake up people! Zionist gas attacks are occurring right under your very nose.