A Season of Machimoodus State Park

My novel A Season of Whispers is available this Thursday, and all week I’m touring the places that influenced its setting.

Machimoodus State Park, located in East Haddam, Connecticut, is a 300-acre park full of crumbled stone walls, trap rock, and towering white pines located along the Salmon River.

It’s also the source — or, at least, is one of the sources — of the Moodus Noises.

Back during my archaeology days, I encountered the noises firsthand while working a cultural-resource management gig in the woods near Old Saybrook. I’d arrived early in the morning before the rest of the crew, and while setting up, heard a series of low echoing rumbles coming from the north. They were very different than thunder — more like sonic booms. I assumed they were some kind of explosion but when my coworkers showed up, they told me there was nothing on the news. It was only afterward that I realized I’d heard the Moodus Noises.

Connecticut is very geologically active — we had two earthquakes alone back in July — but the good news is most of the quakes are below 2.0 Richter. Geologists have determined the Moodus Noises are generated by microquakes occurring deep underground, the sound of which then reverberates to the surface.

Local Native American tribes venerated the area around Machimoodus — which translates to “the place of bad noises” — as the home of a spirit they called Hobbamock or Hobomoko, who was a sort of Plutonic underworld figure. Later, the Puritans regarded the area as haunted and associated it with the devil (but then again, the Puritans regarded everything as Satanic — there’s another state park nearby called Devil’s Hopyard). It’s interesting to me that the tribes correctly pinpointed the origin of the noises as being underground.

The fictional town of Saltonstall, which is where A Season of Whispers takes place, is set a little south of Machimoodus State Park. It’s worth visiting for an easy hike.