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The Case of the Unexplained California Sonic Boom in 2009

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The Case of the Unexplained California Sonic Boom in 2009

sonic boom

It was around 9:15 p.m. on a Tuesday evening in March of 2009, when suddenly the residents in Orange County, California experienced a strange sort of rumbling that rattled the windows and shook doors.

What made the rumbling particularly odd was the fact that witnesses reported their homes didn’t shake at all – only the doors and windows of their homes shook. In one specific account, one woman reported how she watched the bedroom doorknob rattling as though someone was trying to open the door – yet no one did.

It spooked her greatly, because she was home alone with her 1 year old daughter. That witness told the Orange County register that she didn’t hear or feel anything – only her doorknob rattled as though from an invisible hand.

Another witness – Tracy Austin of Huntington Beach – told the Register that the “whole house rumbled”, but in particular that it shook the front door of the house. She also told reporters that her dogs could sense the rumbling effect before it happened.

The effect was even picked up by seismic sensors, and staff at the USGS quickly recognized that whatever had caused the strange shaking effect up and down the coast of Orange County was definitely not an Earthquake.

The USGS Analysis of the Mysterious Rattling

FOIA documents released by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed a fascinating email stream among scientists at the USGS, as they were analyzing the effects that took place not only at 9:15 P.M. on a Tuesday, but also later again at 9:15 A.M. the following day.

The first the USGS heard about the event was from the media, as Kate Hutton wrote to the staff at Cal Tech:

“Bob Dollar & I got a few calls last night from the media about ‘earthquakes’ felt in Orange County. We did not see any earthquakes, but we do see a prominent sonic boom at about 9:19 to 9:22 pm (depending on the exact location) last night in the area.”

From this email, a conversation started regarding the analysis of the sonic book, including where it made landfall and what direction it followed over land.

On March 4th, Bob Dollar of Cal Tech wrote to Erik Pounders of the USGS with an update, including the fact that the reports from residents numbered in the hundreds – not dozens, as the OC Register had reported.

“Hundreds of shaking reports beginning about 21:30 local. Felt by Gary [local reporter] personally. I found CIIM reports for Fontana event 12 hours earlier at 9:30 local. Reports started at 21:30.”

The seismologists were able to use the seismic data to track the path of the sonic boom. In the email stream, Kate Hutton and Bob Dollar provided her findings and stated that “it” – as they all were starting to call the craft – had reached land around Dana Point from the South-Southwest, and traveled Northeast over Anaheim and then Citrus – headed straight for Angeles National Forest, and of course Edwards Air Force Base far beyond.

One of the most interesting segments of the email conversation was when the scientists began sharing sampling from “Jiggle”, which revealed very clear evidence of a significant sonic boom.

Other people in the email stream commented about the fact that most of them didn’t feel any rumblings at all – like everyone would have in an earthquake – further solidifying the conclusion that the witnesses along the proposed flight path had felt a sonic boom.

Susan Hough of the USGS:

“I didn’t feel any rumblings, and had no idea that any of this was going on until Ken brought it to my attention. It sounds like it would be helpful to put a note on the CISN page when sonic booms are felt across the region?”

It was an innocent suggestion – one that was clearly offered with the public safety and interest in mind. However, other seismologists at the USGS had been down the same road before. It didn’t take long for the truth to come out regarding how the U.S. military attempts to stifle such information from reaching the public.

U.S. Navy Cover-Up of Sonic Boom Reports

Not everyone at the USGS was so interested in taking the information they had gathered about the sonic boom – and their conclusions about where it came from and where it was headed – to the public. John Evans of the USGS informed two colleagues of the USGS and Rich Davies of the Western Disaster Center that the USGS had been chastised before for informing the public about detected sonic booms.

“Sonic booms do register on seismic nets and can be evaluated back to a ground track, but this is not done routinely, so far as I know. Indeed, one of our Pasadena scientists some years back got chastised by military folks for publishing such a result. As if Aviation Leak didn’t get there ahead of us…”

John Evans of the USGS quickly jumped into theories of experimental aircraft out of Groom Lake, but also proposes the idea that meteors are also known to cause sonic booms as they enter the atmosphere.

On March 5th, John wrote to the rest of the team:

“Given Aviation Leak summaries of ‘donuts on a rope’ high-altitude trails left by something producing a very deep rumble rather than a boom … there is certainly a strong possibility of correlation with Groom Lake. This aircraft has been seen [the SR-71 Blackbird/Habu] in several locations in the southwest in the last decade and may be associated with call sign “Dark Star” overheard in Texas and the (probably planted) project name Aurora.”

With that aside, John goes on to explain that he had personally witnessed a meteor causing a large sonic boom.

“Note that another source of sonics is large meteors, generally bollides (meteors that break up). I got a very good sample of that at the one and only shot I ever witnessed, in the hills above Calaveras Res many ages ago. Brilliant flash and persistant, scintilating trail several minutes before shot time and large boom a few seconds before shot time…”

Regardless what actually caused the massive sonic boom throughout Orange County, the USGS email stream unearthed by an FOIA request did reveal that at least seismologists at the USGS have a very unique perspective when it comes to tracking the affects of test flights with supersonic aircraft by the military, incoming meteors, or whatever else could potentially travel so quickly through the skies that it could cause such a mysterious sonic boom.

References & Image Credits:
(1) Black Vault
(2) USGS Mysterious Shaking Emails
(3) Mysterious Shaking Documents Black Vault
(4) National Geographic

Originally published on

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
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