Mount Airy, NC
There are, apparently, things that go boom in the night in Mount Airy.

Only trouble is, no one can figure out just what is causing the booms.

Glenda Mayes, who lives on Newsome Street, said she's been hearing — and feeling — the loud noises and accompanying shock waves multiple times over the past few weeks. She said the most recent one was around 2 a.m. on May 1.

"It just about knocked me out of bed," she said, admitting that while that might be a bit of an exaggeration, the noise was extremely loud and shook her house.

She's not the only one hearing and feeling the booms.

"They felt something here, I'm not sure exactly what it was," said Mount Airy Police Department Sgt. J.W. Watson. While Watson said he didn't hear or feel anything — he works day shift while others at the station who did hear it work night — he said his colleagues did hear the noise, and felt the police department shake.

"Officers rode around the south end of town because they kept getting calls, but they never found the source of what it was," he said.

Mayes said the noises have been going on for several weeks, sometimes sending both her and her neighbors scrambling from their homes searching for the source.

"Lately it's been twice a week. It's like a big boom, something hitting the wall. It almost sounds like it's outside our window," she said, but when she and her neighbors go outside, they can't figure out what's going on. "When the first ones happened, I thought maybe it was a jet going over breaking the sound barrier, but there no jets going over. I know they're not drilling at the quarry that time of night."

That was backed up by a person working at the North Carolina Granite Company, who declined to give her name. She said the quarry has not been doing any sort of blasting or heavy work after dark.

A spokesperson with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, said his staff periodically hears reports of such noises, but unless there is a thunderstorm nearby causing the noise, he said there is no known weather phenomena which would cause the booms.

Loud explosion-like booms, strong enough to rattle buildings, are not a unique phenomena. In January, media outlets reported the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office was inundated with calls about such booms shortly after the first of the year, but no one there could find a cause. Those reports were widespread, not only in parts of Forsyth, but across Surry, Yadkin, Stokes, Davie and Rockingham counties.

According to WCNC in Charlotte, loud booms were reported in the southern portions of Charlotte and in Greenville, South Carolina, on April 15 — loud enough that a local fire department official called schools in the area to assure them there had been no explosion.

Similar reports across parts of North Carolina, from coastal regions to the mountains, have been reported on multiple occasions in recent years, and around the world, with some reports even predating air flight, meaning airplanes breaking the sound barrier are likely not the culprit. According to a Dec. 22 report in Forbes magazine, writer James Fenimore Cooper even referenced the sounds in his shorty story "The Lake Gun," written in 1850.

The Forbes article referenced the noises as skyquakes, and said they have been reported throughout history from different parts of the world, including the United States. The article specifically mentions the booms occurring in North Carolina, where coastal residents often refer to them as Lake Guns or Seneca Guns, after Seneca Lake in Central New York. It was that lake being referenced in Cooper's short story.

The Forbes piece reported on a study by a team of seismologists from UNC, in which they were able to measure seismic activity in the state from 2013 to 2015 and compare that to reports of similar sounds and ground shaking.

They did detect unusual signals, varying in length from 1 to 10 seconds, near Cape Fear corresponding with reports of booms and ground shaking, yet they are no closer to determining what's behind the noises.

Some theories behind the booms range from meteors exploding high up in the atmosphere; ejections of gas from the sun striking the earth at speeds far faster than that of sound, creating a sonic boom; or even the violent expulsion of gas from deep inside the earth.

Whatever the cause, the loud booms appear to be real, if not explainable by known science.

That's of limited comfort to some Mount Airy residents, who are hoping if the booms persist, they at least happen during the day time so they can get a good night's sleep.