Did you hear it? On Monday night at approximately 11:20 p.m., reports of a loud boom flooded police stations and social media sites alike.
Sources from the Warwick Police Department said they received nearly 100 phone calls reporting a loud noise that some thought was an explosion. Some residents called to say it shook their homes.
On the other side of Narragansett Bay in Barrington, residents also reported the noise, and a few said a flash of light accompanied it.
The calls prompted an initial police and fire search of the areas, and then marine crews took to the waters between Conimicut and Bullocks Point to search for the source of the sound. Senior Chief Jamey Kinney, from the southeast sector of the Unite States Coast Guard, said one of their boats from Castle Hill joined four other local boats to comb Narragansett.
Initially, the Coast Guard made calls to T.F. Green to see if they had any missing planes, but the FAA confirmed all was status quo. They also reached out to National Grid to see if any transformers had exploded, but they, too, confirmed all was well. The Coast Guard then tossed around the idea that the noise could have been a vessel in distress, but Kinney said their foray into the waters was more as a precautionary measure.
“It’s better to respond earlier,” said Kinney.
But there was no vessel, and after combing the waters for an hour and 50 minutes the Coast Guard returned their team to shore empty-handed.
To add to the mystery, residents further reported a low, droning, humming noise coming from the water that began about an hour or so after the initial boom was heard, about the same time crews took to the water to comb for a source.
Some on social media said the hum sounded like a distress signal, while others said it didn’t sound like anything they’d heard coming from the bay before. One person said it sounded like it could be a tugboat. But Kinney said the source of the hum is just as mysterious as whatever caused the initial boom.
However, the Coast Guard did determine that the strange flashing light reported in Barrington came from a lighthouse.
Locally, reports of the boom came from local neighborhoods like Buttonwoods, Hoxsie, Conimicut, Lakewood, Edgewood, Warwick Neck, Gaspee and Governor Francis Farms. Other media outlets have reported that the noise was heard as far away as Somerset, Mass. Yet, there were still some residents of those communities that missed the boom altogether.
Though Kinney said, “strange stuff happens all the time,” he has never heard of mysterious boom like this in this area.
Still, according to some reports, this isn’t the first time Rhode Island has dealt with such a mystery. Another loud noise reverberated through the Narragansett Bay area in August 1998 around 9:30 p.m. Yet again, officials could not find the source.
Rhode Island isn’t the only place that’s been mystified by such inexplicable noises, since they’re fairly common throughout other areas of the country. In March, residents of Clintonville, a town in Wisconsin, reported a series of mysteries booms night after night. Residents said they were consistently being awoken from their sleep by the sounds. Still, officials had a tricky time pinpointing the source. Finally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recorded a 1.5 magnitude earthquake and said the noises were consistent with the ground’s trembling. ABC, who was among several national news stations to document Clintonville’s strange plight, concluded that the mystery was solved by the USGS diagnosis.
The USGS website did not indicate any seismic activity in New England at the time of Monday night’s boom, though there was a small earthquake in Maine on Tuesday morning, well after reports of the noise.
With no concrete source identified, people began crafting their own explanations for the strange sound they heard. Those on Facebook came up with these ideas: some thought the noise could have been a small bomb, a gas explosion or a transformer, but police and fire searches quickly ruled out those possibilities. Others suggested it was a meteorite crashing to Earth, but no landing sites have been found, and there were no reports of the water being disrupted by a space rock. Then there were a slew of commentators who suggested an unidentified flying object or aliens caused the noise.
One of the more colorful suggestions came from Jason Oneppo who shared this: “It was aliens there [sic] space ship ripped a whole in the space time continuum when they stepped on their breaks to avoid a squirrel while traveling at the speed of light.”
And it looks as if we’ll never be able to disprove Oneppo’s theory, since Kinney said the investigation into the source of the boom has concluded.