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What's That?
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Those Mysterious “Booms” That Rattle Windows


By James Donahue


We have all shared the experience of a loud “boom” that literally rattles the windows and shakes the china on the shelves of our homes. The noise is so unexpected and so loud it often causes us to look out of our windows to see if something in our neighborhood hasn’t just exploded.


We listen for the sound of sirens, revealing the disaster we are sure has happened somewhere nearby. But there is nothing. No sirens. No more noises. Just a few dogs barking after being disturbed from their afternoon slumber.


I have experienced booms that were loud enough I was prompted, during my days as a bureau reporter, to call the dispatcher at the Sheriff’s office to find out what caused it. I was always told that there were no reports of anything wrong. And yes, they also heard the boom and thought it was probably a jet breaking the speed of sound.


Living under the regular flight path of training jets from an air base, we were all familiar with those sounds. But they had their own unique slam and were usually always accompanied by the sounds of jet engines far overhead. What I am talking about is different. This is a boom that seems to come from the bowels of the Earth….perhaps right under our feet. It is loud. It is thunderous. And it rattles your bones.


There are certain parts of the world where noises like this are heard more frequently than other places. And they have been happening for so long . . . perhaps hundreds of years . . . that local legends have sprung up.


Along the East Coast of the United States, for example, people refer to the booms as the Seneca Guns. The name comes from Seneca Lake, in New York state, where those unexplained booms have been reported for centuries. American author James Fenimore Cooper wrote about this phenomenon in a short story over 150 years ago.


 In recent years the Seneca Guns have been sounding farther south, along the Delaware Coast, and off the California coast as well. Also people in Washington State, near Seattle, have been reporting similar booms. The sounds seem to roll over the landscape, rattling windows and china all the way to the mountains before they stop.


This writer has heard them in Michigan.


The pattern is always the same. After it happens police say they get lots of telephone calls from people who want to know what disaster has just happened. Was it a plane crash? Earthquake?


Military officials sometimes can confirm that it was not a jet smashing the sound barrier. Nothing exploded. No aircraft crashed. Meteorologists say it isn’t thunder. And Seismographs rule out earthquake. So what is causing it?


Theories range from alien craft to methane gas explosions at the bottom of the sea. Others suggest sonic booms from far away that carry over the ocean water. But that does not explain the sounds inland. Other suggestions include meteorite falls to secret military experiments and natural electrical discharges from the atmosphere.


The bottom line is that nobody really knows what is causing the noises.