Responding to reports by the residents of Lead, South Dakota, of mysterious “oooooh” sounds coming from the former Homestake gold mine, earlier this week, a scrappy band of scientists visited the mine to identify the sound’s source and quash rumors that former miners had returned as ghosts.
The crew took on the case — a departure from their usual work — because they realized that rumors of the miners’ ghostly return could delay the detector’s construction schedule. Disproving the ghosts’ presence would be the best way to avoid that scenario.
“It was also a test of our experimental and investigative skills — how would our top-notch analysis abilities apply to this field case?” said University of California, Santa Barbara’s Chloe Blake, a scientist on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.
The team piled into the Ross Shaft elevator to descend a mile deep into the mine. But before they even stepped off the lift, CERN scientist Norville “Shabby” Roget noticed the day’s first clue: a cable hanging from a gap created by a shifted tile in the elevator ceiling.
“I was hungry, and since it resembled licorice, I noticed it right away,” Roget said.
The cable led the team to a pair of speakers sitting on top of the elevator car.
The second clue was a wireless microphone only partly hidden in a craggy part of the mine wall.
“They didn’t even do a good job hiding it,” said Ned Zones of the University of Liverpool. “At that point I thought, ‘This is dumb. What am I even doing here?'”
Blake found the third and final clue: the corner of a white sheet sticking out of a strangely placed closet near the elevator. Duney Du, the canine member of the team, sniffed near the door and nodded his head, signaling that someone was inside.
Thelma Binkley of Fermilab rolled her eyes at the suspect’s incompetence.
“My conclusion was that this whole escapade was not an interesting way to apply our skills,” Binkley said. “What a waste. But at least we could have fun unmasking the punk.”
Near the closet, Zones laid down a pizza, which he brought just in case the team became hungry, to lure the impostor miner.
Soon, a figure draped in a white bed sheet emerged, floating toward the delicious-smelling cardboard box.
Binkley leapt at the suspect, lassoing him.
“Zoinks!” Roget said.
“Now let’s see who’s really under this, frankly speaking, amateur ghost costume,” Zones said.
The dress-up ghost surrendered, shedding his sheet.
He told the scientist-detectives that he’d come to the mine to make amplified ghost noises to alert people of the planned arrival of neutrinos for the upcoming experiment.
“People were being way too casual about the fact that ghostly particles would be coming to the mine — in droves,” said the suspect, Mortimer.
When Blake explained that neutrinos weren’t actual ghosts, Mortimer softly inhaled, mouthed the word “oh,” lowered himself to the ground and bowed his head. Was he the only one who’d thought neutrinos were ghosts in particle form?
“Mortimer,” said Binkley, interrupting his thoughts. “Why the sheets with eyeholes cut out? No one could see you anyway, all the way down here.”
Mortimer confessed that he’d signed up to act as a ghost in a local theater production and that he saw this as a chance to practice the role.
“You know, two birds, one stone,” he muttered.
Once all had reached the surface, the sheriff of Lead told the DUNE team, “I’ve got to hand it to you. You solved the case in 10 minutes. I hope it was worth the 14-hour drive from Chicago in that turquoise van.”
The DUNE team noted that Mortimer was basically just spooking the town for the heck of it.
“And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling collaborators!” Mortimer said.