Podenstein’s Lab Episode 008: The Shocking Shakedown on Earthquake Madness

In Episode 008, there’s a whole lot of shaking going on as the news team takes a deep dive into Earthquakes in the USA. First, find out about the big Missouri monster that rang bells in Boston. Next, get a happy thought with a possible future catastrophes stateside that could kill a lot- or everybody. Then discover how tremblors are being created- by the thousands- through the hand of humanity. And of course, real headlines that are real weird. It’s news you can use to shake up your friends, in Podenstein’s Lab!



German police say grenade-shaped item in forest was sex toy

German bomb squad was called.  And then a party was called.


New Hampshire gender reveal explosion party explosion rocks towns miles away

80 pounds of tannerite.  Dad – “see honey? I rocked your world…again.”


Florida nurse broadcasts butt injection during Zoom courtroom hearing

The prosecution assed her a question.


 Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around

Flipper’s peyote.


Man bitten while using barbecue tongs to remove rattlesnake




When you think of Earthquakes in the U.S.- what comes to mind first?  I mean, let’s go right to the top.

I know what you’re thinking. Kelis (kuh-LEES) at number one.  Wait, no, that’s milkshake, not earthquake. Though it did bring all the boys to the yard, doesn’t count. My bad.

San Francisco, right? Wait- do you mean 1836 with a projected magnitude of 6.5?  Oh, no- 1906, with magnitude 7.8.  Maybe.

How about Alaska?  And I mean, just pick one, right?  Couple of standout: 1964- with a freakin’ 9.2, and less than a year later an 8.7 tremblor.

California, Hawaii, Alaska- they’re knockin’ down the numbers.  But the heartland is super-stable, right? Other than some man-made stuff and the Westboro Baptist Church, there’s not much else trying to knock us down from underneath, right?

To the claim that only the coastals have the big shakers, we Midwesterners say, “hold our geologic beer.”

Our only fault isn’t our insane work ethic. It’s the New Madrid Fault Line,  a 150 mile long fault system tectonic butt crack stretching from Cairo, Illinois, through  New Madrid, Missouri, and into north-eastern Arkansas.  The fault zone itself effects 7 states, including Tennessee Kentucky, Indiana and Mississippi.

A series of quakes along the New Madrid Fault line started December 16th, 1811, at 2:15AM.  But it wasn’t just one day, or a few days, of quakes and aftershooks.  Two more big honking quakes on January 23rd, 1812, and February  7, 1812, and  hundreds of aftershocks continuing through 1817.  We’re talking SIX YEARS here, people.

How powerful were the major quakes?  The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake hit an estimated 7.7 on the richter scale.  The strongest of the four New Madrid quakes was 8.1.   Thing is, every full point on the Richter scale equals TEN TIMES the strength of the previous point.  So when you compare the New Madrid 8.1 to San Francisco’s 7.7, it’s FOUR TIMES STRONGER. 

San Francisco’s earthquake claimed 3000 lives.  New Madrid’s accounts for about 10- but no one know how many people died on boats on the Mississippi.  Since there wasn’t a concentration of people in one place yet, like 1906 San Francisco, there wasn’t the numbers, nor was there the firestorm after the quake, which killed so many out west.

However, it was hell on earth for those that lived through it. Let’s paint the picture. 

New Madrid, Missouri in 1811 sat on the very edge of the Mississippi, high up on a tall riverbank.  A bustling riverport town, with plenty of furs and pelts heading east, and people and tools heading west.

It’s 2:15am, Christmas is just around the corner, you’re sleeping- and there’s a huge “BOOM” that echoes across the cold, black night.  Dishes fly off shelves, stones fall from your chimney, the logs of your house are swaying or bouncing. Animals scream outside.    You exit your house- and see in the partical moonlight the distant land rolling in waves.  You hear the Mississippi River as you’ve never heard it before- roaring, crashing, and as god is your witness you think it’s running BACKWARDS.

Depending on where you are, you see great cracks open in the land, with trees falling across them left and right.  Or you see great geysers of sand and brackish water blasting upwards here and yon into the night sky.  Or your watch cliffs with might trees tumble down into the churning waters of the Mississippi. There’s the stench of Sulphur in the air, like hell itself has opened it’s maw to swallow you whole.

This, is just the first morning of the next two months.

Eyewitness reports say, “the earth was horribly torn to pieces;  the surface of hundreds of acres was from time to time covered over of various depths by the sand which issued from the fissures.”   

Also, “the water that had filled the lower cavities … rushed out in all quarters, bringing with it an enormous quantity of carbonized wood … which was ejected to the height of from ten to fifteen feet, and fell in a black shower, mixed with the sand which its rapid motion had forced along;    the roaring and whistling of the air escaping from the earth seemed to increase the horrible disorder of the trees blown up, cracking and splitting and falling by thousands at a time.”

According to the book “On Shaky Ground:  The New Madrid Earthques  of 1811 to 182” by Norma Hayes Bagnall, an area of 30,000 square miles had the land surface lowered from six to 15 feet.  In a smaller area it was raised.  A fog enveloped in areas as lakes suddenly drained when the land was lifted, or stinking geysers of sand, burnt wood, and hot water shot into the air  and forme new lakes where the land lowered.   Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee was formed during the quakes.  All in all, two million square miles were affected by this quake.

 As for the Mississippi river flowing backwards, that was not quite accurate.  If you were clinging to a tree trying to stay upright, the river would have looked as such.  What happened was, as monstrous chunks of bluffs along the river plunged into the water, it caused huge waves- some of course rolling upstream.  Also, where the land lifted, it actually caused the Mississippi to back up on itself, which would look like it was running backwards.  When the water cut a new channel, it flowed like a tidal wave and indundated everything in its path.  Riverboats were swallowed.  Islands disappeared.  Towns were flooded out. There was a growing village-slash-town in Arkansas that got flooded- and the inhabitants had to walk through EIGHT MILES of waist-deep muddy, smelly water to get to dry land.  In the dark.  Not knowing where their next step would land.  Oh- and don’t forget the critters fighting for their lives alongside the humans- including any number of poisonous snakes. And the quakes changed the course of the Mississippi forever. 

New Madrid’s bluff overlooking the river was a soil bluff, not a stone one, so when the quake hit, half the town tumbled down into the turbulent water.  Eventually they moved the town further west, where it exists to this day.

As an example of the power of these New Madrid quakes, according to the book “The Earthquake That Never Went Away”, “chimneys fell in Cincinnati.  Sidewalks buckled in Baltimore.  Church bells rang in Boston.”   Tremors were felt in 2/3’s of the U.S., and even in Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. 

The New Madrid seismic zone produces over 200 quakes a year.    In  2009 the director of the Arkansas Earthquake Center in Little rock discovered a previously unknown fault line in Easter Arkansas.  He says it could trigger a magnitude 7 earthquake.

There’s heart trouble in the heartland, and not just from the fried food.  Let’s hope we don’t shake things up anytime soon.

But you never know…





“On Shaky Aground,” by Norma Hayes Bagnall, University of Missouri Press, 1996

The New Madrid Earthquakes, by James Lal Penick, Jr., University of Missouri Press, 1981






https://inducedearthquakes.org/ https://www.wired.com/2008/06/top-5-ways-that/





https://www.scoopwhoop.com/news/most-daring-prison-escapes-of-all-time/ https://www.icepop.com/craziest-prison-escapes-runaways-history/

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