Mystery Of The Moodus Noises That Baffled Connecticut For Centuries

For centuries, people living in what is now south-central Connecticut have heard strange noises emanating from underground.

Local Native Americans named the area Machimoodus, meaning “the place with bad noises” in Algonquian dialects, a fitting name given the disconcerting sound – like thunder, gunshot, or a crunch – that can ring out in the area without warning. The area’s name eventually became shortened to Moodus, and the noises are known as the Moodus noises. The noises were interpreted by local Indigenous people – the Wangunks, the Mohegans, and the Nehantics – as being caused by the god Hobomoko, who lived under Mount Tom.

When Puritans from Europe colonized the US, they too heard the unsettling noises – sometimes believing them to come from a displeased God. 

An early written account of the noises came in 1638, shortly following an earthquake.

”It came with a noise like a continental thunder, or the rattling of coaches in London,” Governor John Winthrop of Connecticut wrote, as per the New York Times. ”It shook all the ships in the harbor and all the islands. The noise and shaking continued about four minutes. The earth was unquiet for 20 days after.”

An account from 1729 confirmed that the noises were still being heard regularly, as they have continued to throughout the centuries.

“I have myself heard eight or ten sounds successively, and imitating small arms, in the space of five minutes,” Reverend Stephen Hosmer wrote in a letter republished by the Buffalo Commercial in 1898. “I have, I suppose, heard several hundreds of them within twenty years; some more, some less terrible. Sometimes we have heard them almost every day, and great numbers of them in the space of a year. Oftentimes I have observed them coming down from the north, imitating slow thunder, which shakes the houses and all that is in them.”

The noises have continued to this day, with some occurring earlier this month.

                  

Now, of course, we know that they are not caused by an angry god. In the late 1980s, the US Government commissioned an investigation into the sounds, fearing possible seismic activity that could affect the nearby Haddam Neck Nuclear Power Plant. 

The report found that the noises are produced by seismic displacements of an area of unusually brittle crust, which are likely amplified by hollows and fractures within the area’s rock. However, a few mysteries about the noises remain.

“There is something about Moodus that is tectonic that is creating these noises there,” Robert Thorson, an earth sciences professor at the University of Connecticut, explained to AP. “And then there is something acoustic that is amplifying or modifying the noises and we don’t really have a good answer for the cause of either.”

Thorson added that the noises and small earthquakes associated with them are not indications that the area will experience a large quake anytime soon.

“Rift faults that we used to have here (millions of years ago) are gone,” he added. “We replaced that with a compressional stress.”

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