"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

On February 23, 1967, the "Syracuse Post-Standard" covered the story of a mini-Tunguska event that took place in New York state.

Early on the morning of November 13 of the previous year, a pit about 9 feet wide and 2 feet deep was discovered on the farm of Howard Lacey of Venice Center, in Cayuga County. There had been reports of a loud "sonic boom" or "explosion" the previous night, at about 12:30 a.m. One person reported seeing a "bright white light" in the sky about an hour before the noise was heard.

The hole was examined by state police, members of the Air Force, several scientists, and a host of looky-loos, but no one was able to determine what had caused it. Ralph J. Turner, an assistant professor of architecture at Syracuse University, said there was "no direct evidence" that the pit was of meteoric origin. He added, "There is no definite evidence that it was a hoax or of dynamite origin. No order or remains characteristic of that were found. At this time its origin is enigmatic. It does seem safe to say that it was formed by some sort of explosion."

Professor of Geology Ernest H. Muller threw up his hands, reporting that he had "no further conclusions," and "no conclusive evidence to prove it had extraterrestrial origins." Turner noted that the meteorite "would have to be of a size not commonly found...just big enough to get through the earth's atmosphere without disintegrating and large enough to still cause an explosion."

So there the matter rested...until exactly one year later. On the night of November 12, 1967, the exact same thing happened: an ear-splitting explosion in the middle of the night, followed by the discovery of a large crater on Lacey's farm. Again, the usual band of curiosity-seekers and professional eggheads examined the site, and again they went away scratching their heads.

On the night of November 12, 1968, the whatever-it-was put on a third performance: Loud boom, big crater. And everyone was still baffled about what was causing the damn things. An army ordnance expert could find no trace of an explosive device in any of the craters. An investigator from the Air Force went over the area with a Geiger counter but found no radiation. A geologist from Cornell took soil samples and found "absolutely no traces of any known man-made explosives." The state police said the craters were definitely not man-made.

So, was it an unusual variety of meteorite? An unusually clever hoax? Flying saucers?? No one knew for sure, although one local woman who believed in space aliens formed a UFO club aimed at solving the mystery.

By early November of 1969, great anticipation was building to see if there would be another encore.

Well, anticipated by everyone but Lacey himself. The "Oneonta Star" for November 11 quoted him as grumbling that "It's really getting to be a little monotonous...I even hope it doesn't happen this year."

As November 12, 1969 drew near, people came from all across the country to camp out on Lacey's farm to see the expected show.

So, of course, nothing happened. No explosion, no crater, nothing. And it never returned. As far as I can tell, the annual mystery blast, like the "Poe Toaster," departed for good without anyone ever solving the riddle of its existence.

1 comment:

  1. That's a puzzler. I wonder if any of the rubber-neckers would have been 'displaced' by sitting on the wrong spot if another explosion had occurred. And I like that "Ralph J. Turner, an assistant professor of architecture at Syracuse University" was called in. I guess the professor of macro-economics was busy that day.


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