Tag Archives: noise

The Moodus Noises of Moodus, Connecticut

Main Piece:

“So this is a story about- nearby where I grew up in Connecticut there’s a little teeny town in the southern part of Connecticut called Moodus and its where my first cousins lived and we used to go visit around the holidays, Christmas in particular I remember visiting for Christmas Eve because we would trade on and off every year, one year we’d come visit them, one year they’d come visit us and they’d host a big dinner. And they had this big farmhouse and it backed up on this lake and this farmhouse had a hill, a grassy hill, sloping down to the lake and it was extremely old it had extremely dark wooden floors that were rough because it was a farmhouse. Anyways, so I remember the Moodus noises, I don’t really know if its true or a myth, but it’s basically in this town you can hear these noises coming out of the ground and, doesn’t always happen but it can happen and scientists have looked into this and the most likely explanation is that there are micro-earthquakes that are shallow in the ground and that’s the cause of the noise. That’s something everyone talks about in the town, the mascot for the high-school sports team is the Moodus noises and so I remember being with my cousins in this creepy farmhouse and them telling us the story about the noises and then trying to startle us with noises the entire night.”


My informant is a man in his early 50s originally from Hartford, Connecticut. He lived there through his teens and had extended family in the nearby areas. The cousins described here were present for a lot his childhood and they often shared scary stories. The Moodus Noises are well documented phenomena that remain ambiguous and have little physical ties but it serves to unite the town with a common legend. While my informant did not live there, his interaction with his cousins put him in conversation with this legend.


My informant told me about this story when I was asking a group of family and friends about scary stories or legends from their childhood. He told the story in front of the group and I recorded it during that telling. 


What I find fascinating about the Moodus noises is the complete lack of any form of the topic from the folkloric perspective. This natural phenomenon serves the primary function of folklore, it unites the town with a common experience. However, there is no supernatural explanation of the noises. They are not tied to spirits or cryptids, they are just ambiguously there. This is fascinating to me, as more often than not, folklore takes some physical form but the Moodus noises are just noises. In my opinion, this is the result of the fact that the noises have a very clear explanation. Compared to other strange phenomena such as Will o’ Wisps, the Moodus noises have a clear explanation of why they occur. As such, they occupy a liminal space between science and folklore, wherein they have an explanation but they still count as community legend.

Chinese New Year Firecrackers

Interview Extract:

Informant: “So during Chinese New Year, there’s a fear of the evil beast coming. It’s called ‘Nian,’ which actually literally means ‘new year,’ so you’d say ‘oh new year is coming, the evil beast is coming!’ And um, he’s afraid of the color red, and he’s afraid loud noises. So then that’s why people use firecrackers, to scare off the evil beast. And the firecrackers are the kind that have a rope on one end and you light it, and then you have to hold it away from you and turn away like this (informant demonstrates) so it doesn’t blow up your face…And it’s really loud, and it’s really scary! It explodes and there’s like all these pieces of paper flying everywhere, and I hated them when I was younger. They were so scary.”

Me: “But I guess it was an important tradition, so you still had to do it and light the firecrackers?”

Informant: “Yeah, I did. And my parents would always try to take pictures of me while I was lighting one, but I really hated it. In modern times, though, they do have some where you just throw them on the ground, and it’s like a smaller explosion. It’s still loud though, so I don’t really like those either. And also, I hate them because boys, like teenagers, will throw them at girls’ feet, and like it would blow up and lift their skirts, and yeah, ugh, I hated it.”


This is a tradition that emphasizes red and noise as modes of protection. The color red is usually linked to dynamic tendencies and human vitality, while noise is an indicator of live presence. Both elements assert human life and agency, which is combined in the firecracker, thus enabling it to easily frighten off the evil beast or spirit, or anything nonhuman.

My informant did not particularly enjoy this aspect of the Chinese New Year, yet she was surrounded constantly by firecrackers during the celebration, showing that they are an extremely vital and crucial part of the holiday. Even if people do not necessarily believe in Nian, they will engage in the firecracker experience to demonstrate their excitement, or in the case of my informant, cultural and familial duty as her parents try to take pictures of her with the firecracker.

What was most intriguing in her narrative was the fact that boys would use the firecrackers to intimidate and possibly flirt with girls. This shows that the folklore is adapted in unique ways, depending on who is performing it, and has evolved. While it may not be polite or even safe to shoot the firecrackers at girls, it gives another dimension to the Nian-scaring tools and demonstrates that many elements of the Chinese New Year are being used in slightly different ways. The traditions may still be very strong and they way in which they are used can remain unchanged, but the same cannot be said for their meaning. My informant is proof of this, as she herself seems to cringe at the very word “Firecracker” and is likely not to use the original form, but a rather smaller and quieter firecracker in her future New Year celebrations.