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Unexplained Booming Sounds

Over the past fifty years Floridians have periodically heard unexplained booming sounds. These acoustical mysteries have occurred in both the atmosphere and underground. In the 1950s, booming sounds were frequently heard in the Ocala National Forest but most of those were attributed to the military’s Ocala Bombing Range. However, in more recent times the same kind of sounds have been heard over a wider area without any apparent connection to military activities. People described the sounds “like a super-sonic aircraft makes when it breaks the sound barrier.” Windows would rattle and the ground would shake which caused some people to say it was coming from underground.

On January 25th and 26th, 1994, several sonic booms were heard across Central Florida with reports coming from Leesburg, Ocala, Gainesville, Dunnellon, and as far east as Deland. Seismographs at the University of Florida, that are capable of detecting vibrations as far away as China, showed no record of the acoustical phenomenon. When contacted by the authorities, local military installations at Tampa and Jacksonville said the sounds were not made by military aircraft. Likewise, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) could offer no explanations for the bizarre booms. A few people claimed to have heard a quick “double boom” similar to what Central Floridians experience when the Space Shuttle breaks into the atmosphere just before landing. However, there were no shuttles flying during this period. A meteorologist, speaking on the evening news, theorized that the noise could have originated some place other than Florida, like an acoustical mirage caused by the inversion of air…but made audible over Florida. For lack of any other explanation, the theory sounded good on the evening news…albeit the average person found it rather difficult to understand.

There are references to strange booming sounds worldwide, some going back to the 1800s. The famed Barisal Guns of India is one example that has been heard periodically for a century. The Barisal booms sound like cannons and are only heard during heavy rains in the Ganges Delta. In the United States there is a similar phenomenon in New York called the Lake Guns of Seneca. All of these cases continue to baffle scientists.

Residents along Florida’s west coast have on occasion reported hearing “cannon-like detonations on clear mornings when the air is thin.” One boater sailing twenty miles off Cedar Key in 1996 said he heard sounds like “distant cannons” on the Gulf of Mexico. He recounted having heard the sounds just before sunrise and that they were repeated several times in five minute intervals. Strangely, the booms seem to come from no specific direction. The sea was calm with only a slight breeze and no clouds. In this case the experts speculated that the noise came from natural gas eruptions beneath the sea.

In February 1969, people on Jacksonville Beach reported hearing strange rattling sounds coming from two overhead clouds. A woman described the sound in a newspaper article as “like constant crumpling of cellophane.” There were no abnormal weather conditions in this case, no storms, or any other possible cause for the rattling clouds. Just one week later the same unexplained phenomenon was experienced by Miami Beach residents.

In November 1985, unexplained booms were heard at Kennedy Space Center following a shuttle launch. The mysterious sound had nothing to do with the launch. NASA clammed up about it, but researchers later found that the same thing had happened following the two previous launches. One physicist theorized that the sound could have been caused by the Soviets testing a secret electro-magnetic weapons grid system, which allegedly focused on the space shuttle in order to make technical adjustments in a worldwide EM grid network. The theory sounded great, or at least intriguing, but for the average non-physicist it was downright difficult to comprehend. Therefore no elaboration will be offered here, suffice to say it was another explanation to consider.

On May 7, 1996, sonic booms shook windows in Flagler, Marion, Volusia, Brevard, Orange, and Seminole counties. Lesser vibrations were felt as far south as West Palm Beach and as far north as Alachua County. The facilities at Kennedy Space Center experienced this noise too, but NASA claimed it had nothing to do with the shuttle operations. Some people thought it was an earthquake but the seismograph station in Gainesville registered no earth tremors. Once again all the suspect agencies and military were contacted, but all denied having anything to do with it and could offer no explanations. One remote possibility, according to a geologist, was that the sound may have been caused by the collapse of a subterranean aquifer. Underground aquifers hold our drinking water and are huge. If a good size chunk of ceiling fell inside an aquifer it would no doubt create a jolt underground. The only problem with this theory is that geological instruments had not picked up any activity.

Manatee County was hit with an unexplained thunderous boom in June 2003 that rattled windows and shook the ground. The only accountable explosion in the area was an electrical transformer that exploded in St. Petersburg but it was ruled out as the cause. Pensacola had experienced three similar booms in January of 2003, which some tried to blame on military testing in the Gulf of Mexico, but the authorities denied that it had anything to do with the military.

Many explanations have been offered for Florida’s weird booming sounds. The experts have had no problem in explaining what did not cause the sounds, but cannot say what did cause them. So, the booming remains another Florida mystery.

Felt the Earth Move Under Her Feet
I am sure you heard about the strange booms that were heard in Central Florida. We heard them in Pine Hills too and I thought it was the shuttle coming in but it wasn’t. Everyone was talking about it being a small earthquake but it wasn’t. We were outside and what I heard was two back to back loud muffled booms and with each one you could definitely feel the ground shake. Does anyone know what caused this? –Patty K.

Sound Came From All Around
A long time ago when we lived just outside of Fort White, Fla. there was a loud sound that sounded like an artillery gun. This was a rural area and everybody was pretty much aware of things and knew that nobody was dynamiting anything. We were puzzled by the sound but what was more odd is that nobody could agree on which direction the sound came from. Some said it was in the air and others said it was from the ground and some said it was east or west or north. It was like it was all around. I think that was in 1962 or 3, but the recent booms that were heard in Brevard County reminded me of what we heard. I’d bet it was the same thing that caused it. –Mrs. J. W. K.

Weird Florida


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