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Mistpouffers are unexplained reports that sound like a cannon or a sonic boom. They have been heard in many waterfront communities around the world such as the banks of the river Ganges in India, the East Coast and inland Finger Lakes of the United States, as well as areas of the North Sea, Japan and Italy; and sometimes away from water. Names (according to area) are:

They have been reported from Passamaquoddy Bay in southwestern New Brunswick, in Belgium and Scotland, at Cedar Keys, Florida, Lough Neagh in Ireland, Western Australia and Victoria in Australia, on an Adriatic island in 1824, at Franklinville, NY in 1896, and in northern Georgia. They have been heard frequently on calm summer days in the Bay of Fundy.[1]

On the shores of Seneca Lake and nearby Cayuga Lake, the two largest of upstate New York's Finger Lakes, these sounds are called the "Guns of the Seneca". Their sound has been described as being like distant but inordinately loud thunder while no clouds are in the sky large enough to generate lightning. Those familiar with the sound of cannon fire say the sound is nearly identical. The booms occasionally cause shock waves that rattle plates. Early white settlers were told by the native Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) that the booms were the sound of the Great Spirit continuing his work of shaping the earth.

One explanation for why they are usually heard near water, is that inland communities are often too noisy to hear these booms. Their origin has not been positively identified. They have been explained as:

  • Meteorite impacts.
  • Gas:-
    • Gas escaping from vents in the Earth's surface.
    • With lakes, natural gas from decaying vegetation trapped beneath the lake bottoms suddenly bursting forth. This is plausible, since Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake are two large and deep lakes.
    • Explosive release of less volatile gases generated as limestone decays in underwater caves.
  • Military aircraft (though it cannot explain occurrences of the phenomenon which predate supersonic flight).
  • In some cases, they have been associated with earthquakes.
  • In North Carolina, that they are the sound of pieces of the continental shelf falling off into the Atlantic abyss (but there is no geological evidence to support this)
  • A recent explanation is that the noise is very distant thunder which has been focussed anomalously as it travelled through the upper atmosphere: see link #1 below, including for cases of anomalous transmission of sounds of man-made explosions.


  1. ^ Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events. 1899. p. 440.  

The term originating in Seneca, Georgia, during the Civil War era, mistpouffers, or Seneca Guns, are the rumble of the artillery fire. The civilians of Seneca claimed to have felt the rumbles during the Battle of Seneca. The battlefield was 5 miles away, but the people still felt the rumble over this distance (Johnson 5). The battle was won by the Confederate army, which was being led in the struggle by "Stonewall" Jackson. The term was coined by the Seneca Press saying, "The guns of the Seneca rumbled the houses throughout the night." The term is now used for any natural or artificial rumble felt.

External links

  1. The Guns of Barisal and Anomalous Sound Propagation
  3. New Lands: A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book: Account of Barisal guns observed in 1874, and of some meteorite impacts
  4. Account of Lake Guns - 1800's


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