Police are investigating a series of loud noises annoying the residents of Mullica Township.
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Earlier this month, 911 dispatchers in Mullica Township, New Jersey started fielding dozens of calls from residents who reported hearing—and feeling—a series of powerfully loud sounds. One caller said that the blast "shook my entire house," another felt like it was "blowing our house off the foundation," while a third reported that it sounded like "a bomb dropped from a plane."

Mullica Township Police Chief Brian Zeck told NJ.com that the department was investigating (and trying to eliminate) the source of the booms; they quickly ruled out military planes at the New Jersey National Guard Base, commercial flights landing at Atlantic City International Airport, and hunters who were out for deer and duck seasons.

Flock of birds
Credit: Top Photo Corporation/Getty Images

"We don’t know where it’s coming from,” Zeck said last week. “We’re weeding out the sounds of fireworks. We haven’t found the source of a detonation.”

But a man in nearby Hammonton has admitted that his homemade "hail cannon" might be what is driving Mullica Township mad. Rob Butkowski made the 16-foot long cannon from junk metal, scrapped street signs, and a modified propane tank, and he uses it to keep birds from eating the grapes in his vineyard. 

"It sounds like a jet going by,” he told the New York Post. “It’s like the loudest thing you’ve ever heard just blew through your chest—it’s amazing.” (The other people in his neighborhood might employ a few different adjectives to describe it.)

Hail cannon
An example of a hail cannon seen on a vineyard in Piemonte, Italy.
| Credit: Perseomed/Getty Images

He says that, in addition to scaring birds away, the cannon also "splits clouds apart," keeping the skies clear above his five-acre property. And, unfortunately for Butkowski's (literally) rattled neighbors, the cops don't really have a reason to ask him to stop setting it off—as long as he stops using the cannon before 10 p.m. "It doesn’t fire projectiles, and it’s not a firearm or an explosive,” Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel said. “It uses gas—and that’s it.”

Hammonton is about 10 miles from Mullica Township, so Zeck isn't entirely convinced that Butkowski's oversized science project is the reason his own residents are being rocked. He told the Post that he was "looking into" Butkowski, but was still trying to identify other possible sources of the blasts too.

It sounds like he'll have plenty of time to investigate because Butkowski isn't going to give the neighborhood a break anytime soon. "I’m gonna do whatever I want as long as it’s legal,” he said.