Time, October 19, 2017

'It Really, Really Frightened Me': Tourist Thinks He Was Hit by Sonic Attacks in Cuba Years Ago

By Josh Lederman / AP

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Chris Allen's phone started buzzing as word broke that invisible attacks in Cuba had hit a U.S. government worker at Havana's Hotel Capri. Allen's friends and family had heard an eerily similar story from him before.

The tourist from South Carolina had cut short his trip to Cuba two years earlier after numbness spread through all four of his limbs within minutes of climbing into bed at the same hotel where American government workers were later targeted. Those weren't the only parallels. Convinced the incidents must be related, Allen joined a growing list of private U.S. citizens asking the same alarming but unanswerable question: Were we victims, too?

It may be that Allen's unexplained illness, which lingered for months and bewildered a half-dozen neurologists in the United States, bears no connection to whatever has harmed at least 22 American diplomats, intelligence agents and their spouses over the last year. But for Cuba and the U.S., it matters all the same.

It is cases like Allen's that illustrate the essential paradox of Havana's mystery: If you can't say what the attacks are, how can you say what they're not?

With no answers about the weapon, culprit or motive, the U.S. and Cuba have been unable to prevent the attacks from becoming a runaway crisis. As the United States warns its citizens to stay away from Cuba, there are signs that spring breakers, adventure-seekers and retirees already are reconsidering trips to the island. After years of cautious progress, U.S.-Cuban relations are now at risk of collapsing entirely.

That delicate rapprochement hadn't even started to take hold in April 2014 when Allen felt numbness overtake his body on his first night in the Havana hotel.

"It was so noticeable and it happened so quickly that it was all I could focus on and it really, really frightened me," said Allen, a 37-year-old who works in finance.

The Associated Press reviewed more than 30 pages of Allen's medical records, lab results, travel agency records and contemporaneous emails, some sent from Havana. They tell the story of an American tourist who fell ill under baffling circumstances in the Cuban capital, left abruptly, then spent months and thousands of dollars undergoing medical tests as his symptoms continued to recur.