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Moodus Noises


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The village of Moodus, Connecticut, was troubled with noises. There is no
question as to that. In fact, Machimoodus, the Indian name of the spot,
means Place of Noises. As early as 1700, and for thirty years after,
there were crackings and rumblings that were variously compared to
fusillades, to thunder, to roaring in the air, to the breaking of rocks,
to reports of cannon. A man who was on Mount Tom while the noises were
violent describes the sound as that of rocks falling into immense caverns
beneath his feet and striking against cliffs as they fell. Houses shook
and people feared.

Rev. Mr. Hosmer, in a letter written to a friend in Boston in 1729, says
that before white settlers appeared there was a large Indian population,
that powwows were frequent, and that the natives drove a prodigious
trade at worshipping the devil. He adds:--An old Indian was asked what
was the reason of the noises in this place, to which he replied that the
Indian's god was angry because Englishman's god was come here. Now,
whether there be anything diabolical in these things I know not, but this
I know, that God Almighty is to be seen and trembled at in what has been
often heard among us. Whether it be fire or air distressed in the
subterranean caverns of the earth cannot be known for there is no
eruption, no explosion perceptible but by sounds and tremors which are
sometimes very fearful and dreadful.

It was finally understood that Haddam witches, who practised black magic,
met the Moodus witches, who used white magic, in a cave beneath Mount
Tom, and fought them in the light of a great carbuncle that was fastened
to the roof. The noises recurred in 1888, when houses rattled in
witch-haunted Salem, eight miles away, and the bell on the village church
sung like a tuning-fork. The noises have occurred simultaneously with
earthquakes in other parts of the country, and afterward rocks have been
found moved from their bases and cracks have been discovered in the
earth. One sapient editor said that the pearls in the mussels in Salmon
and Connecticut Rivers caused the disturbance.

If the witch-fights were continued too long the king of Machimoddi, who
sat on a throne of solid sapphire in the cave whence the noises came,
raised his wand: then the light of the carbuncle went out, peals of
thunder rolled through the rocky chambers, and the witches rushed into
the air. Dr. Steele, a learned and aged man from England, built a
crazy-looking house in a lonely spot on Mount Tom, and was soon as much a
mystery as the noises, for it was known that he had come to this country
to stop them by magic and to seize the great carbuncle in the cave--if he
could find it. Every window, crack, and keyhole was closed, and nobody
was admitted while he stayed there, but the clang of hammers was heard in
his house all night, sparks shot from his chimney, and strange odors were
diffused. When all was ready for his adventure he set forth, his path
marked by a faint light that moved before him and stopped at the closed
entrance to the cavern.

Loud were the Moodus noises that night. The mountain shook and groans and
hisses were heard in the air as he pried up the stone that lay across the
pit-mouth. When he had lifted it off a light poured from it and streamed
into the heaven like a crimson comet or a spear of the northern aurora.
It was the flash of the great carbuncle, and the stars seen through it
were as if dyed in blood. In the morning Steele was gone. He had taken
ship for England. The gem carried with it an evil fate, for the galley
sank in mid-ocean; but, though buried beneath a thousand fathoms of
water, the red ray of the carbuncle sometimes shoots up from the sea, and
the glow of it strikes fear into the hearts of passing sailors. Long
after, when the booming was heard, the Indians said that the hill was
giving birth to another beautiful stone.

Such cases are not singular. A phenomenon similar to the Moodus noises,
and locally known as the shooting of Nashoba Hill, occurs at times in
the eminence of that name near East Littleton, Massachusetts. The
strange, deep rumbling was attributed by the Indians to whirlwinds trying
to escape from caves.

Bald Mountain, North Carolina, was known as Shaking Mountain, for strange
sounds and tremors were heard there, and every moonshiner who had his
cabin on that hill joined the church and was diligent in worship until he
learned that the trembling was due to the slow cracking and separation of
a great ledge.

At the end of a hot day on Seneca Lake, New York, are sometimes heard the
lake guns, like exploding gas. Two hundred years ago Agayentah, a wise
and honored member of the Seneca tribe, was killed here by a
lightning-stroke. The same bolt that slew him wrenched a tree from the
bank and hurled it into the water, where it was often seen afterward,
going about the lake as if driven by unseen currents, and among the
whites it got the name of the Wandering Jew. It is often missing for
weeks together, and its reappearances are heralded by the low booming
of--what? The Indians said that the sound was but the echo of Agayentah's
voice, warning them of dangers and summoning them to battle, while the
Wandering Jew became his messenger.

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