Theories on mystery boom explode


The mystery boom heard last week across Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts has left people scratching their heads and searching for answers.
After hundreds of comments were left on the Warwick Beacon Facebook page, and a handful of tweets and emails made their way to us, we’ve compiled quite the assortment of theories.

Ed Martin, a Hoxsie resident who said he didn’t hear the bang but read about it in the Beacon, said the story reminded him of his grandfather. An engineer for Texaco, Inc., Martin’s grandfather told him how the company did some research into mysterious booms that occurred during his tenure at the gas company. What they found was that coal and natural gas deposits under the Bay could be disturbed by slight movements in the Earth’s crust, causing the combustibles to ignite and explode.

The United States Geological Survey was not able to comment on whether or not this theory was plausible by press time, though a small 2.3-magnitude earthquake did register on the Richter Scale in Maine at 6:11 a.m.

Leslie Derrig, a Conimicut resident, has her own “big bang theory” – and it involves pumpkins. Derrig, who also heard the bang, figures she found the source early the following morning when she was out for one of her early morning walks.

“The whole area was eerie that morning, really quiet,” Derrig said.

When she arrived at the end of Shawomet Avenue near the boat ramp, she said she found dirt and bits of pumpkin splattered in a radius of 30 to 40 feet.
“It was all over the place,” she said. There was no set of tracks, leading Derrig to conclude the booming pumpkin was a relative new occurrence.

Thinking to the explosion she heard Monday night, she said the noise came from the direction of the point. At the time, her first thought was that “kids” were responsible.

Derrig didn’t think much of her discovery until reading about all the theories of what could have caused the boom and the Coast Guard’s futile search for a vessel that some speculated was the source. Warwick police received scores of calls about the noise and speculation was rampant on Facebook. The story was carried by much of the state’s news media.

Derrig didn’t bother calling police, but Captain Joseph Coffey is hopeful she will now. He said it’s tricky to tell who checked what areas on Monday night, and how thoroughly they looked, but an investigation of the area could prove helpful.

“It wasn’t hidden,” she said of the mess. “I just figured anyone looking for something would have found it.”

Captain Coffey said it was likely that police searched the area Derrig described, since so many calls came into the station that night.

In addition to the theories, there were other reports of booms from throughout the country and even in England. All of the reports happened within 24 hours of one another.

A user on the Beacon website commented from Luton, England, a city about 31 miles north of London, where they said they heard a similar unexplained boom at around 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Accounting for the time difference, the boom was heard in Luton at about 12:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, just 45 minutes after the noise that rattled Rhode Island.

Steve Ayers, a reporter with the Verde Valley Newspapers in Camp Verde, Ariz., sent the Beacon an email on Friday. The email included a link to Ayers’ story about yet another boom in his area. His story detailed a loud, unexplained noise heard by residents in his community on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m.

Ayers described the noise as “a loud boom, followed by a second blast that shook windows.” Like the noise heard here, Camp Verde’s boom went unexplained by officials.

Ayers also sent along links to news stories from Alabama, Georgia and Texas, where there were more accounts of loud, unexplained noises.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, WJBF News Channel 6, a television station in Augusta, Ga., reported that a series of loud booms were heard over the course of several nights. They began on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at around 9 p.m. and occurred again on Wednesday at 9 p.m. and Thursday at 5 a.m. Officials ruled out quarry blasts and earthquakes, but offered no other answers.

Janet Jacobs, a reporter for the Corsicana Daily Sun, a newspaper in Corsicana, Texas, reported this on Dec. 5:

“Reports of earthquake-like tremors starting Tuesday afternoon and continuing until early Wednesday can’t be confirmed as true earthquakes, but experts can’t say what it is, either.”

The unexplained activity began around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4 and ended around 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Yet another mysterious, loud noise puzzled residents and officials in Auburn, Ala. The Auburn Plainsman reported a loud bang was heard across a widespread area at 12 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Officials could not provide an explanation, though they ruled out fireworks or gunshots because the noise was “far too loud.”
Similar booms were heard in March in a town in Wisconsin, but were eventually found to be small earthquakes.

The source of the boom in Rhode Island has still not officially been identified, and the Coast Guard (who combed the waters shortly after the noise was heard last week) said their investigation into the cause of the noise is now over.

With reports from John Howell


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