The Mystery of the Calloway County Volcano

An article appeared in the Owensboro Daily Messenger on Friday, April 1, 1887 about volcanic activity occurring on Blood River near New Concord, Kentucky earlier that week.

The article, which is shown in the image above, paints a dramatic picture.

“The phenomena were first noticed Monday afternoon, when all the wells in the neighborhood, which are generally full at this season, were found to be nearly dry.  The same night strange rumbling noises were heard in the earth similar to an earthquake shock, but there was no perceptible shaking of the ground.”

The rumblings caused terror in the folks living in the area. 

“About 11 o’clock an explosion was heard in the direction of Stinger’s Bluff, two miles from New Concord, and a column of fire was seen to shoot up towards the heavens 150 feet.”

The article states that sheer panic ensued, with people crying and praying to God, fearing the Judgement had some.  Animals were running wild, utterly spooked by the massive event.

Some people decided to investigate the blast at the bluff.  As they approached, the heat became so intense that they could not get within a quarter of a mile.  They reported debris of red-hot ashes flowing down the side of the bluff.

The reporter of the article referred to an “informant” of the event – one who supposedly witnessed the occurrence.  The author of the story stated the isolated location proved difficult to follow up on the bizarre event, due to a lack of telegraph communications in the area.  The nearest telegraph office at that time was in Mayfield, about 35 miles away.

Several other newspapers picked up this story in April and May of 1887, with most using the name “Stonger’s Bluff”.  However, no other information is found online about this event taking place in New Concord – including follow up stories. Further, the name “Stinger’s Bluff” or “Stonger’s Bluff” is nowhere to be found in any book or publication online outside this story.

There are no active volcanos in this part of Kentucky, or any in written record.  Possible explanations of this include a meteor strike, but that would not explain the rumblings before the explosions.  Neither the explosion of a moonshine still would cause rumbles beforehand.

Another unlikely explanation is that the story was an April Fool’s Day joke (the article was published on April 1) because it was picked up afterwards by so many papers.  The best possible explanation is that the story is fake news – a totally made up story sent to the correspondent. But we may never know for sure.

No matter what, however, it is an interesting tale from an otherwise sleepy part of Calloway County.

Leave a Reply