- FORT FISHER, N.C. -- The
sound rolls in off the ocean like an invisible tidal wave, washing over
houses with enough force to rattle windows and startling people who look
uneasily to the ground and to the sky for an explanation.
- Boom. Rattle. Rattle boom. And it is over as quickly
as it began.
- The mysterious noises have been reported as far back
as the 1850s.
- Now, a Duke University seismologist hopes to find clues
about the mystery sound's origins as a side benefit from an earthquake
- Peter Malin, a seismology professor for 10 years, plans
to monitor a sensor that has been placed deep in the ground at the Fort
Fisher State Historic Site near Wilmington.
- The sensor is intended to record minor seismic activity
that might indicate when more significant quakes can be expected.
- There is no explanation for the sounds, at least not
one on which everyone agrees.
- Some say the rumbling is a sonic boom created by unseen
aircraft. Others suggest top-secret military training offshore or maybe
the earth moving on the ocean floor or deep below ground.
- Then there are the theories that gave the phenomenon
its name, the Seneca Guns -- that the sound comes from the ghosts of
Indians firing guns to disturb descendants of those who drove them from
- This name first arose in New York, then applied to North
Carolina, even though there were no Seneca Indians there.
- Malin's hunch is that the booming noise originates in
the atmosphere, although he has no particular theory on the cause.
- He heard the sound and saw its impact in July while
his project. Doors and windows shook, but the house didn't, he said,
to him that the ground did not move.
- Residents who have heard the noise for years have ruled
out obvious suspects such as thunder because the booms have occurred on
clear days when there were no clouds or lightning.
- Accounts of the rumbling date back to the days before
airplanes, much less supersonic jets that fly fast enough to break the
- There is no particular pattern, although in the past
they have been reported most often in the fall and spring.
- Other scientists have suggested that the interplay
water and weather might be causing the sounds.
- Some people say that the mystery should never to solved,
but Malin says that there is good scientific basis for his wanting to
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