This is part 2 of a 3 part series, Smells Like Terror, about spooky science.
For hundreds of years spooky noises have emanated from the wooded hills surrounding the village of Moodus, Connecticut. The deep rumblings and jarring cracks seem to come from within the hills themselves and are often accompanied by tremors. Over the years they have inspired a sense of foreboding among the local inhabitants. The original Native American name for the area was Machimoodus, meaning ‘place of evil noises’ and it was thought that the area was haunted by evil subterrenean spirits.
When English settlers arrived they also found the Noises unsettling. Churches were filled. Hands were wrung. It was eventually decided that the Noises were caused by two battling factions of witches who fought in an underground cavern by the light of a great carbuncle (if you don’t know what a carbuncle is you’re not alone – in this case I assume it refers to some sort of bright, red gemstone). Enter Dr. Steele, a mysterious old man from England, who was hired by the townspeople to destroy the carbuncle and thereby end the Noises. He constructed a workshop in the woods outside of town and, having sealed all of the building’s windows, set to work in complete secrecy. After some time he claimed to have ended the worst of the Noises and quickly left town. Legend has it that Dr. Steele lost his life in a shipwreck en route back to England. Or maybe, as any good con-man would, he simply dissappeared.
The Noises continued, and still continue to this day. Over the years some have doubted the existence of the Noises, but in the 1980’s geophysicists began to investigate possible causes. They eventually determined that the Noises were the result of little earthquakes, or microquakes. But exactly how the Noises are generated remains a mystery – they are a seemingly unique geological phenomenon. Seismographic data has shown that the Noises are always accompanied by small, localized tremors, which occur at a depth of about one mile below the surface. Although over time the Noises have been viewed as an evil omen and a scientific curiosity they continue to fascinate us today.