Officials in Arkansas have taken the unusual step of ruling out Satan as the cause of a hole that suddenly burst into flames last month.
Locals in Midway, Baxter Country were shocked when a flame erupted 3.7 meters (12 feet) out of the ground on September 17, settling at 2 meters (8 feet) high and burning for 40 minutes
"I've never seen it before. I hope I never see it again," Donald Tucker, chief of the Midway Fire Protection District, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "What it was, I have no idea."
Sadly, no photos or video of the event were taken. Reports suggested it burned orange-red, spanning about 0.6 meters (2 feet) wide.
The appearance of the flaming hole obviously had people a little spooked, and a number of theories sprung up about its origin. One was that a meteorite has struck the ground and caused the flame, although that’s pretty much impossible because science.
The county judge, Mickey Pendergrass, said the cause of it was still being investigated. Which led to a rather brilliant quote. "As far as the spiritual Satan goes, we've ruled that out," he said. "He didn't come up and stick his pitchfork in the ground and blow that hole out."
So far it’s thought the hole was created by an animal. No natural gas such as methane was detected in the area, though, seemingly ruling that out as the cause of the hole. Nearby gasoline and propane tanks were also found not to be leaking.
Soil samples have been taken from the area to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. There are some suggestions that gasoline may have leaked into the hole somehow, though.
“The soil samples should clear up any possibility of gasoline or anything else put down the hole or migrating groundwater contaminate such as gasoline,” said Ty Johnson of the Geological Survey told AP News.
There was a positive from the whole thing, though. The flame erupted in front of a billboard advertising a surgeon at a local medical center, called somewhat unbelievably Dr Win Moore, who said he’d got a lot of free publicity from the event. Good for him.