In October 2010, a 360 foot long crack appeared in rural Menominee County, Michigan. Residents nearby reported hearing booming noises. Is this what's coming for Clintonville, Wisc.? Credit: Wayne Pennington, Michigan Technological University

We’ve been as fascinated as anyone else about the strange news coming out of Clintonville, Wisc. this week. Residents in the small town have been hearing mysterious booming noises in the wee hours of the morning.

It may be a stretch to consider this an economic story, but Clintonville is being flooded by out of town reporters, who must have some kind of economic impact. And at least one engineering firm is getting business from it.

Plenty of people online also speculate that “fracking” could be behind the mysterious noises. Hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas drilling method usually just called “fracking,” did play a role in a series of earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio.  The U.S. Geological Survey just confirmed that there is small seismic activity behind the Clintonville booms - tiny tremors that only measure 1.5 in magnitude. But town officials say they’ve ruled out most man-made causes for the tremors (the closest known fracking operation is about 20 miles from Clintonville).

That leaves natural causes as a possible explanation. says the Midwest’s abnormally warm spring could be playing a role, as ice in the ground quickly melted and the soil suddenly settled.

But one of the biggest questions, of course, is whether these noises are something to be worried about.

Some Clintonville residents are thinking they might not want to stick around and find out. A few have already fled just so they could get some uninterrupted sleep. But in the town of Moodus, Conn. strange booming noises have been rattling residents for hundreds, if not thousands of years. There, the noises have been attributed to very small earthquakes, though no one is quite sure why they’re happening in Moodus.

There’s also a more local precedent to the strange happenings in Clintonville. In October 2010, residents in a rural section of Michigan’s Menominee County heard a series of strange booms. A few days later, Eileen Heider discovered that her 53-acre property suddenly had a new hill, and a crack in the earth that stretched for more than 350 feet. Geologists at Michigan Technical University later determined the crack came from an earthquake, though it was such a minor quake, it would have barely registered on any seismic measurement tools. Nonetheless, it’s considered the first recorded earthquake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Charting a path between three Midwest towns where mysterious noises have been reported. Credit: Google Maps

The Menominee Crack, as it’s now called, sits just 80 miles northeast of Clintonville. Eighty miles in the opposite direction is the town of Montello, Wisc. Tuesday night, residents in Montello started hearing noises as well. The three towns form a line that runs almost parallel to the western shore of Green Bay.

Changing Gears has not yet consulted with any geologists on what this could mean. But if (if!) Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula suddenly starts drifting away into Lake Michigan, we promise we will tell you what the implications are for the Midwest economy.