By Derek ValcourtPIKESVILLE, Md. (WJZ) ―
Officers Vickie Warehime and J. Posluszny Jr. have solved a lot of mysteries, but this one is over their heads--literally.
In fact, it may be about 30 to 40 feet in the air.
For months, the Baltimore County Community Outreach officers have been investigating a bizarre phenomenon disturbing neighbors in an area of Pikesville near Beth Tfiloh Community School.
Derek Valcourt reports 911 callers complain about a deafening explosion and a bright flash of light in the middle of night.
"The bedroom actually lights up like day," says Elaine O'Mansky, who lives in the Stevenson Commons condominium building near Beth Tfiloh. "It's instantaneous and wakes us up out of a very deep sleep."
She isn't alone. Barbara Friedman is Homeowner's Association president for the area.
She was up late one night sweeping her back patio when she heard the boom.
"I hit the deck," Friedman explained. "It was so loud, I thought I was being shot. I literally hit the deck."
After she realized she hadn't been shot, she started emailing other homeowners to see if they heard it too.
"Then my email got flooded because hundreds of people were hearing these noises and thought it was their imagination," she said.
The noise was so upsetting, Elaine O'Mansky decided it was time to start keeping track of the phenomenon when it occurred.
From late September until now, she's heard it 25 times, always between midnight and 7 a.m. with no consistent pattern.
Convinced something was wrong, Friedman and O'Mansky contacted police, who were skeptical at first.
"We were a little bit concerned that this was maybe a little bit of an exaggeration," said Sgt. Vickie Warehime. "They were saying they could see (the light) through their window blinds."
Police were concerned that if something really was as loud and as bright as neighbors described, it could potentially be dangerous. So they began to investigate.
Like many of the neighbors in the area, police first guessed that the noise could be coming from a hunter's rifle. But O'Mansky reminded them of the bright flash of light.
So police started investigating whether it was an electrical or gas problem.
Experts with BGE began checking all of the power equipment in the area. They climbed on rooftops of the nearby Beth Tfiloh School and nearby condo building to check all of their electrical equipment and air compressors, but found no evidence of problems. There was no electrical charring, burning or malfunctioning equipment.
A BGE spokesman confirms their investigation found no electrical problems or gas leaks in the area.
Then police decided to take the next step and install two cameras hoping to videotape the boom.
Elaine O'Mansky volunteered to wake up every night around midnight to turn on the camera officers had set up in a fifth floor window of her building.
"It wasn't until we caught it on tape that we realized the magnitude of what they were actually talking about," said Sgt. Warehime. "The sound is almost deafening. You can't describe it. Seeing it on tape without hearing the sound doesn't do it justice."
Videotape taken at 3:34 a.m. on April 23 does show a flash of light that lasts a fraction of a second and lights up an area the size of a football field in the middle of the night.
The flash on the tape is accompanied by loud boom that sounds like a crack of electricity or lightning.
WJZ meteorologist Bernadette Woods analyzed the dates, times and weather conditions when the phenomenon occurs.
"There's nothing coming out of the sky," said Woods, who added that weather likely isn't the primary cause of the flash and boom, but it may be a contributing factor. "The atmospheric conditions could be such that they are supporting the event."
Cameras have videotaped the event on two other occasions. Police have used the shadows cast by the light flash to determine an approximate area where they think the light source may be coming from--30 to 40 feet in the air in the parking lot between the Beth Tfiloh Community School and the Stevenson Commons condominiums building.
Officer Posluszny has already repositioned two cameras several times hoping to see the source of the boom and flash.
"So when we get it again, and we will get it again, we should be able to narrow down where it's starting," said Posluszny. "I will not retire until I find out what this is."
Police say they've consulted with many experts and they're running out of options.
"Everything we can rule out, we are ruling out, and we're almost at a loss right now," said Warehime. "We need some help."
"Whatever it is there's a scientific explanation," said Johns Hopkins University Physicist Dr. Peter Armitage, who reviewed the video tape evidence and went to the neighborhood where it's happening to see if he could find any possible causes.
Armitage says more evidence is needed before he can form a scientific conclusion.
"Right now it's hard to say the phenomenon is definitely occurring though," said Armitage. "It's not some people with creative imaginations that's for sure. When there's repeated eyewitnesses, and then there's something on tape like this, you really have to pay attention."
For now, neighbors like Bonnie Friedman and Elaine O'Mansky say their quality of life depends on whether this mystery is solved.
"We would like it to stop," said O'Mansky. "You go to sleep at night just wondering in the back of your mind, 'Is it going to happen again?"
Friedman agrees. "We even said maybe it's aliens. We're at the point where we'll listen to anyone's theory. We just need to stop it because my homeowners need to sleep."