Thursday, November 21, 2013

Unexplained 'mystery booms' began two years ago this week

Southwest Alabama
This past Monday marked the two-year anniversary of the start of one of the most unusual series of events to hit Southwest Alabama in recent memory – the unexplained “mystery booms” of 2011-2012.

At 11:33 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 18, 2011, an extremely loud booming noise was heard over a wide area in western Conecuh County and eastern Monroe County. That “boom” was heard by witnesses from Repton to Monroeville and as far south as the small communities of Goodway and Wildfork in Monroe County.

Margie Peacock of Repton was among one of the first people to say she heard the sound.

“I heard it too,” she said. “All the way over here on Highway 41 in Repton. It wasn’t a sonic boom, sounded more like an explosion.”

Peacock noted that the she believed the sound came from somewhere southwest of Repton. Michael Brooks of Monroeville said that he heard it when he went outside to check his boat batteries. After hearing the sound, he went inside and turned on his police scanner, but never heard anything about it on his radio. He noted that he thought that he heard a similar sound maybe 20 minutes later.

Monroe Journal reporter Josh Dewberry, who at the time lived in the Wildfork community near Excel, said that he also heard the strange sound and another man, who lives further south in the Goodway community, said that the noise was so loud that he heard it while he was taking a shower.

In a news story in the Dec. 1, 2011 edition of The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville, Dewberry reported that another unexplained explosion occurred on Sat., Nov. 26, 2011 at 6 p.m. Witnesses said that it was not as loud as the Nov. 18 explosion.

Later, Stephen Riley, who lives between Evergreen and Lyeffion, reported to The Courant that he heard “two different booms” just before 9 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 6, 2012. The noises sounded “like thunder, except there was nothing on radar,” Riley said, noting that the noises seemed to come from the direction of Evergreen.

Riley wasn’t alone in hearing the unexplained noises that night as witness reports flooded in from a number of distant communities, including Repton, Belleville, Lenox, Monroeville, Excel, Halls Crossroads, Frisco City, Sugar Hill and Goodway Junction. The distance from Lyeffion to Goodway Junction, which is between Frisco City and Uriah, is 37-1/2 miles as the crow flies.

Jessica Ozgowicz, who lives in the Excel area, said that the sound “just kind of traveled down one side of my house and was almost like the house settling or some sort of pressure was pushing it.”

Carlton Waters, a former Evergreen mail carrier, said that he was at his sister’s house between Repton and Belleville, when he heard the noise around 8:30 p.m.

“I heard it and thought it was thunder,” Waters said. “I took out my phone to check the weather and there was nothing out there.”

Retired state fire marshal Ken Smith “heard something here” in Monroeville about that same time, but he wasn’t sure what it was, he said. He noted that he didn’t hear any police dispatch traffic about the incident.

Shawn and Jen Partin, who live between Excel and Repton, said that they were outside between 8:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. and heard it. She described the sound as “weird,” noting that it sounded similar to thunder.

Amy Ikner, who also lives in the Excel area, said that the noise occurred “exactly” at 8:30 p.m. because she was texting a friend when she and her husband heard it from inside their home. “He (her husband) went outside to see what it was,” she said.

Repton’s Margie Peacock said that she heard it too and wondered at first if it might be thunder. She thought “the rain was coming in sooner than forecast,” she said. “It was pretty loud too. This time, it sounded like it came from towards Evergreen, which would be northeast of me.”

Former Courant reporter Julie Adams and April Brooks of Monroeville were among those who said they heard similar “booms” earlier that week. Gloria Cole of Excel said that the booms had “been going on since summertime,” saying that she remembers hearing other people talk about the phenomenon.

In mid-January 2012, another round of “mystery booms” were reported in Conecuh, Monroe and Clarke counties. Several witnesses, including Courant employee Kristie Garner, reported hearing an extremely loud, unexplained “boom” on Thurs., Jan. 19, 2012 around 7 p.m.

“It seemed like three separate booms,” Garner said. “When the first one started, I thought, ‘Is that thunder?’ But then it kept going and finally stopped. (It) happened one or two more times. I finally went outside to hear better, but it had stopped. It was creepy.”

Witnesses also heard the noises in Monroe County and as far away as Grove Hill. Jim Cox, the publisher of the Clarke County Democrat in Grove Hill and South Alabamian newspaper in Jackson, told The Courant that the booms were heard in Clarke County around 6 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2012.

“Several long and repeated booms rattled the windows and shook the dishes,” he said. “I opened a yard gate about the time one hit, and my black lab was out the gate and gone. It took an hour to get him back in.”

Numerous theories were offered to explain the unusual noises, but no definite answers were ever found. Theories varied and include the off-burning of oil rigs, pranksters with homemade cannons, seismographic testing, high-speed naval aircraft, UFOs and meteorites. No evidence was found to support any of those theories. One man suggested that the noises were caused by individuals setting off explosives to destroy beaver dams on private property.

Some proposed that the noise was probably a sonic boom caused by an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet flying out of Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS).

The Courant contacted officials at Pensacola NAS and Eglin Air Force Base in Niceville, Fla., and officials at Pensacola NAS said that no jets from their facility were in the air in the vicinity of Conecuh or Monroe County at that time of night on Nov. 18, 2011. Navy officials also noted that the airfield at Pensacola NAS closed at 11 p.m. on Fridays and with the exception of a few transport planes, none of their training aircraft were in the air after 11 p.m. A request for information about flight activity near Conecuh County out of Eglin Air Force Base on Nov. 18, 2011 was never answered.

One man suggested that the sound was a land oil crew setting off underground explosions as part of a seismological test. Others say that this is unlikely because these types of tests aren’t typically conducted at that time of night.

One theory suggested that the noises were “brontides,” which are unexplained deep, booming noises that are often associated with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Episodes of these explosive noises of natural origin have been well documented often in association with seismic activity and in a few cases as precursors of major earthquakes.

In the end, the cause of the “mystery booms” remains unknown, and I welcome your thoughts on the subject. Readers with theories, accounts or ideas regarding the “mystery booms” in our area are invited to contact The Courant at 251-578-1492 or by email at To contact The Courant by mail, write The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.

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