GREEN BANK, W.Va. -- There is a small town in West Virginia filled with giant telescopes. Scientists from all over the world use them for astronomical research. Those highly sensitive telescopes require a quiet zone to operate - that means no WiFi and no cell phones.
You might think that would keep people away. Not so, it's actually having an opposite effect.
People are moving to Green Bank, West Virginia for their health. They claim electromagnetic fields you find everywhere these days are making them sick. So they are seeking refuge in Green Bank and they say it’s working.
They may come from all over, but this small group of strangers is now joined by two things: They say they are electromagnetic hypersensitive. And they all now escape the effects of it in Green Bank.
Sue Howard is a former resident of New York. She was seeking a safe place and found it in Green Bank.
"I'm married and I have two children. And one of the great hardships for me (was) I had to miss my daughter's graduation,” she says. “If every man woman and child carries a cell phone, how could I be there?"
Kathryn Stauffer used to live in Illinois. "I miss family. I miss my life in Illinois,” she says. “I had a 30 year life in Illinois. It's hard to walk away from that."
That includes her boyfriend, a race car driver in Joliet who is now fighting cancer alone because Stauffer moved to the southeast from Ogle County.
The problems for all of them are microwaves, power lines, Wi-Fi and cell phones.
But there’s no threat of those in Green Bank because the telescopes built in in the 50's mandate no wifi for 10 miles around. It's the law.
So Stauffer bought a house in the woods. And Howard built her own cabin. There is no refrigeration because it’s a major aggravator for her condition. And she uses electricity for only two hours a day, the most she can stand.
"When you do finally figure out what it is, I could turn on my pain with the remote control and a TV," she says.
There are 80-plus possible symptoms including headaches, heart palpitations, rashes, and more. But the World Health Organization along with the rest of the medical community is not making a link between these more common signs and the electromagnetic waves we encounter in society every day. While the symptoms may be real and the syndrome exists, the cause is not medically defined.
Feeling alone and desperate, this group of "sensitives" is ecstatic to have found one another.
"That was my ‘A-ha Moment,’” Stauffer says. “When I found out there were other people like me … you can't imagine how validating that is."
The people that run the Green Bank Telescope or GBT also support the group and are pleased the technology is helping with their pain. But the world is continuing to change. Their fears of losing this sanctuary to the powerful world of ever evolving technology is as real to them as the condition they suffer from may not be far off.