Did You Know There’s a Huge 100-Year-Old Crater in Shongaloo?
The massive crater in Shongaloo, LA was formed by an explosion, not a meteor or aliens. Have we mentioned that this thing is HUGE? When my friend Josh Hanson, a Webster Parish native, told me about the ginormous hole in the ground, I thought he was joking. After all, I've lived here for the majority of my life and I've never heard anything about a crater in Shongaloo before. It turns out that you learn something new every day!
The crater in Shongaloo also known as Gleason's Crater dates back to the 1920s and was formed due to an explosion from a gas leak. It all started when a discovery well was drilled by the Louisiana Oil Refining Company in the early part of 1921 on the W. E. Gleason property just outside of Shongaloo. Will Lowe recounts the tale as told by his father in response to a blog by John Agan.
Here's the story of Gleason's Crater according to Will Lowe:
It was on this same property that Shongaloo's famous crater was created, a direct result of oil discovery. The well was the Gleason Number Two. Drilling was begun in April of 1921. The men worked day and night until the well was brought in. More than two hundred people gathered to watch the well come in and it was during the peak of this excitement that a pipe in the hole cut loose. It was known within an hour that the well was wild and within only a few minutes gas was coming from in the ground down the hill in the Dorcheat bottoms. Thousands of people, including many oil men, swarmed into the area to see the spectacle. One man yelled to another, “All hell has opened up down there.” All efforts to relieve the pressure failed so the well was abandoned.
A month later, the oil company attempted to salvage the well. John Slack was standing on a board across the slush pit when suddenly the bottom fell into a depth of about one hundred feet. In a matter of minutes, the well fell in and the derrick fell over on the side. No one was injured and the workers were able to save the engine, boiler, cramblock on top of the derrick. The hole began to get wider and wider as the sides caved in and it soon measured two hundred feet across.
Oil and gas continued to shoot out of the hole. About a year later it caught fire and burned steadily for two and a half years. The fire went out when a well drilled on the Bubba Martin land relieved the pressure. Erosion, as well as trash from a sawmill operated on its edge for years has helped fill in the crater until it no longer resembles the one hundred feet deep hole which old-timers still love to talk about.
My father told me of seeing the glow from the fire in Minden.
According to John Agan, much of the history surrounding the crater has been lost and the exact dates of the explosion have been difficult to track down because no one has been able to cross-reference the dates with any local periodicals from that time. Reports also vary depending on the person recounting the tale. However, John says that some folks say the explosion was felt as far away as Shreveport! That's one heck of a big boom! My friend Josh estimated that the hole is at least 100 feet deep and he says he's always heard that a massive crane or piece of equipment can be found on the bottom. Another commenter on Agan's blog who identified themself as 'Unknown' added the following:
My husband is a long-time resident of Shongaloo. His retelling of the story from what he heard from his ancestors only differs slightly from Will's. He did say it burned for 2 to 3 years and that it was so bright that his Aunt said they lived about a mile or two away and her father could sit on the porch at night and read the newspaper, it was that bright. He heard the well blew out and it melted and swallowed up the rig and two cars that belonged to the big oil men that were there at the time. He said there was no time to crank the cars everyone just ran for their life.
Perhaps the oil rig and the vehicles are what's to be found at the bottom of the crater as opposed to Josh's version? One thing is for sure, I'm not going to be the one to climb down to find out! Here is another piece of the story thanks to the Shongaloo, Louisiana History Facebook page.
Does your family have a tale surrounding the 'Shongaloo Crater?' We'd love to hear it and any other myths you may have heard regarding NWLA!