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Mysterious boom shakes homes and businesses but who’s to blame, USGS decides

It’s October and we all know it’s the month of spooky things, candy and our favorite horror movies. One thing for certain, North Carolina has a long history of spooky places along with weird occurrences that till this day can’t be explained. One of those unexplained events happened this month in the town of Hillsborough, which is about 40 minutes northwest of Raleigh. 

On Thursday, October 19th around 11:50 a.m. a loud boom shook homes and businesses in Hillsborough. The boom was felt as far away as Apex in Wake County. Multiple residents contacted local news station WRAL and law enforcement to report the loud boom. One resident described the boom as a moment when her whole house shook. 

I heard a huge boom and my whole house shook,” the woman said. “I live in a wooded neighborhood, so initially I thought that a tree had fallen on my house.”

The woman went outside to discover other neighbors heard the same sound.

The Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough was evacuated due to the boom according to former Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. Everything imaginable was rumored as the cause of the boom including earthquake, plane crash, bomb explosion, building collapse and many more. Put your mystery solving hats on folks.

At 3 p.m. the town of Hillsborough Tweeted they have yet to determine the cause of the boom but ruled out any of the obvious causes. If you look at the Tweet thread you will see many people reporting the boom and some folks having fun with the town’s mystery boom.

Update: We have yet not been able to determine the source of the noise this morning. So far we have ruled out any obvious causes (bombs, explosions, crashes, planes, building failures, etc.).

— Town of Hillsborough (@HillsboroughGov) October 19, 2023

When the town doesn’t have answers you go to the government for answers. This is where this story gets interesting. On Thursday the USGS determined the boom heard in the region was a sonic boom likely from a flying aircraft. A sonic boom is when a shock wave is created by breaking the speed of sound and causes a big boom noise to be heard many miles away.  

It’s worth noting the only documented earthquake to occur in North Carolina that day was in the extreme southwestern part of the state. The earthquake was so minor it would have not been heard in the Triangle area. Now we can rule out earthquakes and the USGS has given a clue to the mystery boom, let’s go ask the Air Force. The United States Air Force told WRAL the sound could not be attributed to its aircraft operation on that Thursday. Short, sweet and to the point, that’s how I like my answers. 

Now I’m not going to channel my inner X-Files Mulder and Scully energy but this is rather mysterious that there’s no explanation on the cause of this sonic boom heard miles away. I mean the answer from the Air Force is not surprising given the private nature of military operations for security purposes. Let’s say this was not the Air Force and none of the other rumored causes either. But wait, we have an update for you.

The USGS came back on Friday and said the big boom was in fact an earthquake. The 2.2 earthquake with a depth of 3 miles below surface was so small the USGS computers did not catch it according to one official. The USGS also stated they thought it was a mine blast because there is a large quarry near the location. They took a second look and determined it was an earthquake. 

Well this story originally had a fun ending involving Scooby Doo, the Mystery Machine along with the widening of I-40 in Orange County and extraterrestrial aliens. We will save the Halloween spook for now on the boom and just leave you with a few links below. 

Read more from WRAL here.
Read about Eight Haunted Places in North Carolina.


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