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No. 58: Jul-Aug 1988

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From Forteanism To Science

The famous Moodus Noises have long been a Fortean staple -- at least since 1923 when good old Charley mentioned them in his New Lands. Recently, perhaps mostly because there is a nuclear power plant right across the Connecticut River, there has been a concerted scientific effort to find out just what is going on in south-central Connecticut.

A brief glimpse of the phenomenon was provided by W. Sullivan in the New York Times:

"From last Sept. 17 to Oct. 22, more than 175 small earthquakes occurred near the town of Moodus, Conn. Many were accompanied by sounds like gunshots; the strongest vibrated a van. The phenomenon was another swarm of Moodus quakes that have puzzled generations of earth scientists. The earliest was recorded in 1568 and Indians knew of them long before then: Moodus is an Indian word meaning 'place of noises.'"

Sullivan's article was derived from a spate of scientific papers delivered at the Spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union. (Sullivan, Walter; "A Connecticut Mystery Still Defying Scientists," New York Times, May 22, 1988. Cr. P. Huyghe, D. Stacy, R.M. Westrum)

Abstracts of all the scientific papers presented at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union appeared in Eos. Here are excerpts from one of them:

"Since the installation of a six-station microearthquake network in the Moodus, Connecticut, area in 1979, four extensive microearthquake swarms of several months duration each, all accompanied by main shocks of Mc greater than 2, have been recorded. All of the swarms have occurred at shallow depths (less than 2.3 km) and have been concentrated primarily in one small source volume... The 1986 swarm was characterized by a number of small bursts of activity culminated by the largest event near the end of the swarm. The 1987 swarm behaved in a very similar temporal manner to that of the 1986 swarm with one strong difference in that the largest event was the first one in 1987...the shallow depths of all the earthquakes there, the small lateral dimensions of the active source volume and the lack of a fault to which the earthquakes can be ascribed make it difficult to argue that this swarm activity indicates the possibility of a large earthquake at the locality."

(Ebel, John E.; "Comparisons of the 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987 Swarms at Moodus, Connecticut," Eos, 69:495, 1988.)

From Science Frontiers #58, JUL-AUG 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987