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Published October 30, 2018

Legend of the Seneca Guns: Mysterious Booms Across East Coast

Before I’d even heard of the term “Seneca Guns”, I’d heard the strange booms that occasionally rumble around the East Coast. I always assumed some weird kind of thunder, a loud jet, or perhaps a distant explosion.

But these mysterious booms are a naturally-occurring geological or meteorological phenomenon scientists and seismologists have not yet explained. Accounts of the rumbling date back to the days before airplanes and electrical transformers — back in the 1800’s.

The Seneca Guns are perhaps one of the most mysterious legends Appalachia has to offer. While the “Booms” are often heard closer to the coast, the strange sounds have been reported as far West as the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee.

“The Lake Gun” Sounded as Early as 1850

The story began in 1850 when James Fennimore Cooper wrote a legend about Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes of New York. He described the sound:

A sound resembling the explosion of a heavy piece of artillery, that can be accounted for by none of the known laws of nature. The report is deep, hollow, distant, and imposing. The lake seems to be speaking to the surrounding hills, which send back the echoes of its voice in accurate reply.

He called this phenomenon “The Lake Gun.”

The primary legend believed by European settlers is that the booms are ghostly remnants of the Seneca tribe of Native Americans, still fighting for their land and freedom from beyond the grave, and shaking our entire state along with it.

The Seneca Tribe, however, passed down oral traditions that the “lake gun” was actually the angry shouts of their god Manitou. Given that the Seneca Tribe passed down stories about the booms in the 1600 and 1700’s, long before Europeans created their own legend, it seems their story holds more validity.

Paranormal Explanations for the Seneca Guns

While the story originates in New York, now-a-days the booms seem centered around the Carolina coast. The Cape Fear region of the coast contends with strange booms, sometimes so strong it shakes their homes.

In recent years, residents of the coastal Carolinas have created their own explanations for the odd and unsettling booms.

Of course, the primary legend is still that the East Coast is being haunted by the ghosts of the Seneca nation. Several Civil War battlegrounds have their own ghost stories, which also feature the sound of firing guns and men shouting in battle. There is no denying this land has a bloody history, which conjures up fear of ghosts from our past sins.

Other citizens have suggested the booms could be caused by UFO’s. Alien ships entering and leaving our atmosphere would be untraceable by modern day science. Other people believe the booms are shockwaves or sonic booms created by human technology, but that the new aircraft is top secret military work.

However, none of these stories take into account that the Seneca Guns have been sounding since the 1700’s — when top secret military aircraft didn’t exist.

Scientists Search for Origin of the Booms

Several curious seismologists have attempted to match up seismic activity with reports of the booms, but their findings show no earthquakes occurring during times when booms are reported.

Scientists have explored other natural explanations, such as skyquakes, landslides, tidal waves, oceanic activity, tectonic plates shifting — nothing has truly explained the odd and unsettling booms that have been haunting the East Coast since the 1800’s or earlier.

Seneca Gun Occur Across Appalachia

The news has covered mysterious booms in towns all over the Eastern Coast and Appalachia. While the coast seems the most impacted, there are news reports from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and beyond. Here’s an example of a news story from Asheville:

Many people have heard these booms without even realizing what they were. Before hearing of the Seneca Guns, I remember several occasions of hearing odd booms outside. I assumed a neighbor had slammed a hammer on a piece of metal, or a loud tree branch had thumped on my roof, or a transformer had blown.

Once, I was home when I heard a loud boom outside. A second later, my Dad, who lives miles away, texted me. “Did you hear the boom?”

Soon after, Facebook lit up with people across North Carolina, posting the question: Who else heard that boom?

We soon realized people all across the state had heard the exact same boom in the exact same moment.

As scientists have no explanation for the Seneca Guns, it seems the legend is destined to join the Brown Mountain Lights, the fairy crosses, or gravity hills as a mysterious phenomenon that occurs naturally with no scientific explanation.

Appalachia and the coastal plains are old lands, so old we have no idea what stories or curiosities they hold. Many mysterious things occur in the ancient, deep mountains or along the antique sand dunes of the coast. So the next time you hear a strange boom outside, it may be the Seneca Guns — one of those disturbing but magical phenomenon that keep life eerie and interesting.

Fascinated by the Seneca Guns? Learn about 5 Unexplainable Natural Occurrences in Appalachia. Want to be creeped out by history? Check out how we handled dead bodies and burial customs in old Appalachia.

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  • heather

    Heather

  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. All my articles.

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