MR. ROB SACHS
We turn from stolen identities to unsolved identities.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Cheverly, Md., just outside Washington D.C., has a bit of a mystery on its hands. These giant booms have been shaking houses and waking up residents. And while theories abound as to just what the heck is going on, nobody's been able to figure it out. So WAMU's Sabri Ben-Achour got on the case.
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
Cheverly, Md. has a problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1
It sounds like dropping a 500 pound beer 50 feet on top of your roof.
Booms, mysterious sounds.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1
It's an explosion, that's what it really sounds like.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2
The loudest one is comparable to an earthquake.
Sometimes the water shakes out of the cat bowl.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2
It shakes these bars on our windows.
The whole house shook.
That's Tad Kaminski (sp?) , Helen Brock, Rachel Audi and Josh Molhoun (sp?). They all live or work in Cheverly. These booms have been going on for...
Probably 10 years.
For the last 10 years, at least.
There have been more than 250 incidents reported in just the past two years. David Warrington is the town administrator.
MR. DAVID WARRINGTON
I can tell you, I filled some of these calls and the frustration level is there and it's, like, something's got to be done.
So this year, Warrington and Cheverly Mayor Mike Callahan put out a call for help in the form of a $2500 cash reward for anyone who can offer an explanation.
MR. MIKE CALLAHAN
That's right. If they can prove it, they get $2500,so...
So I enlisted the help of one of our trustiest of trusty WAMU interns, Sylvia Carignan.
MS. SYLVIA CARIGNAN
Sylvia, if you can help me crack this, I will totally split the $400 reward with you.
I thought it was 2500...
Uh, so Sylvia, let's talk about what the booms could be.
Well, there are a lot of theories. It could be earthquakes.
Earthquakes? How is that possible?
Well, I talked to professor Martin Chapman at Virginia Tech. He studied similar booms in Richmond and they're actually caused by the sound of the ground shifting.
MR. MARTIN CHAPMAN
These booms are fairly common actually, out in the piedmont part of the southern Appalachians. I would say it's almost certainly got to be earthquakes.
Hmm. Well, okay. But remember when we had that earthquake in Maryland over the summer?
Yeah, it woke me up at 5:00 a.m.
Yeah, that shook people's homes, but it wasn't just felt in one spot. Here's geologist Aaron Martin with the University of Maryland.
MR. AARON MARTIN
The fact that it's so narrowly confined, but still feelable, you know, that's somewhat puzzling. So I certainly wouldn't want to say that it's not earthquakes, but I feel like it could be something else, too.
And he says there is actually a fault line in D.C., but...
It's located between the zoo and the White House.
Oh, that's like eight miles from Cheverly.
Yeah, plus, if it was earthquake-related, he says regional seismographs should've picked it up.
Okay. So what other theories are there?
Well, there's actually a lot. I mean, there's everything from electrical fields to underground springs. But one that I think is possible is Andrew's Air Force Base. It's four miles to the south. Mayor Callahan says they're one of the more recent suspects.
There are all kinds of aircraft that go in and out of there.
And the U.S. government has gotten in trouble for this kind of thing before, according to Jewel Barlow, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland.
MR. JEWEL BARLOW
They took a B-58 and they flew them supersonically at random intervals over Oklahoma City and Atlanta, resulted in lots of lawsuits.
But that was in the 1960s. I talked to brigadier General Jeffrey Johnson, he's the 113 wing commander at Andrews, and he says the rules have changed since then.
MR. JEFFREY JOHNSON
It's not an area where we fly or are allowed to fly supersonic and had we, there would be multiple complaints from all over the place. So in my opinion, that possibility is almost nil.
Well, there is another possibility. There's actually a huge junkyard south of town. They crush cars and refrigerators and stuff. Josh Goode can actually see it from his office.
MR. JOSH GOODE
You can feel the building shake. Sometimes it's much more intense, sometimes it's not that bad at all, but -- and you'll see huge clouds come out, and flames, and walls of flame and everything like that.
We talked to Joseph Smith and Son's junkyard and they didn't return any of our calls.
And asked us to leave.
Yeah, they asked us to leave the property.
But Cheverly's administrator, David Warrington, says they've checked out that junkyard.
Our police went out when calls came in in the middle of night and there was no activity there so there was no correlation between what they were doing and these booms.
We're running out of theories.
Yeah, I know. We're in the same boat as Warrington.
So you're starting to understand my frustration, aren't you?
Feel my pain.
And for the folks in Cheverly who've had had to deal with rattled nerves and broken dishware and being shaken out of bed, it's even more frustrating.
The town is considering hiring a sound specialist.
But if anyone listening has any ideas...
And can prove them, the $2500 reward is out there.
Anyone? I'm Sabri Ben-Achour. And thank you Sylvia Carignan so much for all your help.
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