The Allegheny Mountains are a natural block against radio signals, and federal law allows strict regulation of manmade signals from fixed, permanent transmitters, such as cellphone towers, within the quiet zone. State law sets limits for the signal strength of electronic devices within a 10-mile radius of the telescope.
Diane Schou may have been the first person suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a scientifically controversial condition that sufferers say causes them to become ill after exposure to things such as cellphone towers Wi-Fi, to settle in the radiotelescopes' shadow.
Schou said she left the Iowa farm where she lived with her husband after emissions from a cellphone tower built nearby started causing her physical pain. She sought solace in Norway, Sweden and Arizona before settling in West Virginia in 2007, and now, electromagnetically sensitive people from all over the world come to visit, she said.
Rosemary Hofer, a local real estate agent, said the quiet zone has attracted several people who have sought refuge in towns near the telescope.
"I've sold people land, and they've actually built houses where they only had electricity in half of the house," Hofer said.
The adjustment can be hard on tourists. Laura Parquette, a spokeswoman for the Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, said smartphone-addicted visitors from Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va. feel either relieved or shipwrecked upon realizing their phones are useless.
"You see people walking around holding the cellphone up trying to get the signal, like it's going to come down to you from the sky," Parquette said.
As i said, i have a psychosomatic reaction to my cellphone. Now i see i'm not alone in my madness. At least all i get is an ache in my body, not heart attacks, and that's easily taken care of by keeping my phone away from my body. Tank goff, too, cause i sure as hell am not moving to Virginia for anything.