Officials say humans are behind the mysterious flaming hole causing a stir in Arkansas - and not Satan
I think even the most rational and scientific among us would still be at least a little alarmed by a hole in the ground spitting fire twelve feet into the air. But, I'd also like to think that most of us wouldn't immediately jump to blaming satan for the fiery spectacle, but apparently that was one of the conclusions Midway, Arkansas citizens recently jumped to.
In September, a 3.6 metre fire sprung up from a hole in the ground, reportedly burning for around 40 minutes. “It was burning red-orange colour, about 2 feet in diameter,” Midway Fire Protection District Chief Donald Tucker said.
“It came up about crotch high and spread out to that width. Then it just went down the hole and went out. For a little bit, there was just a little bit of glow of fire down in the hole.”
This flare-up, which happened around 4:30 am, has been a mystery for a while, but the authorities were quick to quell any fears of the supernatural. “As far as the spiritual Satan goes, we’ve ruled that out,” Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass joked. “He didn’t come up and stick his pitchfork in the ground and blow that hole out.”
A man who worked on the property previously claimed that the hole had been there for at least a decade, ruling out theories that it was caused by a meteorite. Soon after, the theory that it was down to methane was also dispelled, as there was no natural gas found in the area.
The Arkansas Geological Survey later ruled that the hole was created by an animal at some point, and now, authorities have confirmed that it was intentionally set.
On Sunday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Baxter County authorities identified flammable chemicals in their soil samples, and now speculate it may have been a prank - dashing rumours that it was related to faulty utility lines, space, or the devil. On the site, the Arkansas National Guard found toluene and xylene in three soil samples - solvents often found in paint thinner.
“That seems like the most plausible thing to me, that somebody dumped a quart of paint thinner down there and caught it on fire,” Wesley Stites, a chemistry chair at the University of Arkansas said.
"It's not a mystery anymore," Baxter County Emergency Management Director Jim Sierzchula said. "It was a prank."
Unfortunately for the curious, Sierzchula confirmed that there were no photos or images of the fire, only the descriptions of those that witnessed it. There was no property damage, and the sheriff's office stated that they will not be investigating it as a crime.
In fact, Sierzchula sounds like he’s relieved to put the event behind him, given how many conspiracy theories he's been dealing with over the phone. “I’ve had people call me at 2 or 3 in the morning telling me what it was,” he said. “I don’t need to play with it anymore.”