'Mystery booms' leave many frightened and unnerved

You're sitting in your living room with your family, watching TV.  Suddenly, you hear what sounds like a loud explosion.  The house shakes.  You run to the window, expecting to see your neighbor's house reduced to a ruinous heap – but thankfully, everything's fine.  You then meet your neighbors coming to see if your house is in a ruinous heap.  After a brief discussion of what could have possibly happened, you call 911.  They take your information and say they'll send someone out to investigate.  The next morning, your local news reports that a "boom" was heard in your area, people's houses shook, multiple residents called 911, and local authorities investigated but found no logical explanation.

This scenario is playing out across the United States, even around the world, at a regular if not increasing rate.  The first spate of unexplained Alabama noises seems to have begun in 2011.  By 2012, the science website EarthSky.org featured the headline "Mysterious, unexplained 'booms' in Alabama, Georgia, Wisconsin."

These events, dubbed "mystery booms," are being reported by local news outlets via TV, radio, and internet.  On the surface, they might sound like the stuff of conspiracy theories, but that's far from the truth.  These are real events reported by real journalists who consult the USGS, local military bases, and scholarly astronomers before reporting back to their stupefied public.

(Wikipedia refers to them as "Skyquakes" and regularly updates its entry to reflect all possibilities.)

One man began gathering reports of these enigmatic events for broadcast on his YouTube channel – aptly titled "Engima Seeker."  On his channel, Peter Reyland outlines both his interest in what he considers "supernatural" UFOs and his thoughts about "mystery booms."  Regardless of what his own beliefs are about the phenomenon, he has, in my estimate, the best compilation of USNs (or "unexplained strange noises") and "mystery booms" on the internet, precisely because the majority of his information is taken directly from local news reports.

A mystery boom occurring November 14 in Alabama (and heard across eleven counties) garnered extra attention when it was reported by various Fox News channels as well as numerous other sources like RT NewsNewsweek, and a link off Drudge Report.  While it was reported that "the National Weather Service in Birmingham hypothesized the sound originated from an aircraft sonic boom or a meteorite from the Leonid shower," the varied explanations become almost laughable if you read or watch the literally hundreds of similar events that remain unexplained – despite the most intense investigations.

The booms themselves are nothing to laugh at.  Each boom usually results in 911 calls alerting emergency responders, who end up using valuable resources chasing ghosts.  Reports from justifiably alarmed citizens lead emergency services to investigate all possibilities: a gas main or propane explosion, a downed aircraft, train derailment, or perhaps the most feared: a bomb or terror attack.

Just two days before the recent Alabama boom, a similar noise shook residents in Cape Coral, Florida.  Residents reported that it wasn't "just external" – "you felt it to your core."  Prior to that event, there were news reports of shaking and booms in San DiegoNew JerseyIowa, and North Carolina.  The list goes on.

After the booms in Alabama, there were similar reports in Lewiston, Idaho.

Sometimes they are explained as small earthquakes, like this one in the U.K.  Others, like the more highly publicized spate of booms that struck in 2016 along the southern Jersey Shore to Long Island and the Connecticut coast – were explained as most likely coming from "naval aircraft testing" over the Atlantic.  The expansive area covered by those booms was said to be caused by "temperature inversions."

While "mystery booms" have been attributed to everything from sonic booms to large waves or exploding meteorites, most remain unexplained, like this "strange jolt" in Michigan last year.  WZZM said it contacted the Michigan National Guard, who said it had no planes fast enough and based in Michigan to create a sonic boom.  The National Weather Service couldn't explain it, and the USGS recorded no earthquake.

One ponders the larger implications in the mystery boom phenomenon.  When similar events happen across the country, whatever they may be, however seemingly insignificant they may seem, is there anyone with any authority charged with tracking patterns?

While cataloging the booms for his YouTube channel, Reyland said one of the most alarming things he's run across is how media outlets don't share information.  A television station in Central Pennsylvania reporting mysterious booms in Clearfield and Cambria Counties might be totally oblivious to the fact that nearly the exact same thing happened in Kansasville, Wisconsin.

While the explosion of social media has put real-time information at our fingertips, it's shocking to think how many things might be happening independently of each other until someone, somewhere, starts to connect the dots.  Under the worst-case scenario, one can't help but consider that anyone with nefarious intentions could be testing our responses to numerous stimuli before carrying out some larger-scale attack.

Whatever one believes to be the cause of these "mystery booms," one thing is certain: from those who have been shaken to their core by hearing or feeling them to those charged with investigating them, they have left too many people feeling frightened and unnerved.

Susan D. Harris can be reached at www.susandharris.com or susandharris@post.com.

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