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Look to the Skies!

April 11, 2007 |  7:00 am

April 11, 1957
Temple City

By Larry Harnisch

Early that morning, about 4:40 a.m., a sonic boom that was perhaps from some secret aircraft shook the San Gabriel Valley awake, setting off burglar alarms and breaking a window at 275 N. Hill Ave. in Pasadena. It was, the Mirror noted, "the first sonic blast reported in the metropolitan area at night."

It was another day of anxiety for Los Angeles residents worried about a Soviet attack. Hadn't they been just been warned that 90% of the people in the metropolitan area would not survive a nuclear blast?

As he left for school that morning, 10-year-old Patrick Murphy noticed a crater 2 feet deep in the backyard of his home at 8831 Greenwood in Temple City, but he didn't say anything to his parents, Oscar, a venetian blind salesman, and Virginia, until that evening when he got home.

At 2 a.m., Capt. Robert Jackson of 551st Ordnance Detachment arrived with three enlisted men and two sheriff's deputies. Jackson's verdict: Possibly a small missile or a meteorite.

Jackson dismissed the notion that the crater was the work of neighborhood children. "If a child had dug it, we'd know it by now," Jackson said. "There would have been knee marks around the crater."

So the men began to dig--carefully, since what was down there could be an unexploded bomb.

More military officers arrived, including two men from Air Force intelligence who said very little, according to The Times, except: "There's definitely a hole in the ground."

The excavation turned up a chunk of concrete marked with yellow paint that was unrelated to anything military, experts at Fort MacArthur said. The men found a rusty baby buggy, a long piece of garden hose and a tin can. After digging in loose, sandy soil for several days, the soldiers excavated a hole 15 feet deep and 10 feet in diameter. Using sensors and a mine detector, they determined that there was nothing of interest to a depth of 10 feet beyond the bottom of the hole.

Although they abandoned the search, Lt. T.D. Smith and Jackson insisted: "Whatever it was, it came from the sky." Smith later said the crater "was probably made by a small meteor which disintegrated after it burrowed into the sandy soil."

Note: Some news accounts give the location as 8831 Greenwood while others report 8331 Greenwood, an address that does not exist.

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