San Francisco’s ‘TL Bomber:’ Lone Wolf Detonating Bombs in City Streets or Urban Legend?

Local lore has been circulating across social media for over a decade detailing the exploits of San Francisco’s mythical ‘TL Bomber,’ an alleged lone wolf explosives enthusiast who’s been gleefully dropping shockingly loud and powerful explosives in the streets of the Tenderloin/Lower Nob Hill neighborhoods for the past 20-odd years.

An M-1000. [Perry Hall/Flickr]
Screenshot from security camera footage (see below) of someone tossing an explosive from a motorcycle at O’Farrell and Leavenworth.
Security camera footage of an explosive being dropped from a motorcycle and then detonating at O’Farrell and Leavenworth.

[Original post] Over the past year or so there has been a rash of explosions in the Lower Nob area. Ive seen it on Facebook, Twitter, EveryBlock and even a little on Reddit. I, personally, don’t know if someone is actually setting devices off or if there is some other explanation, but the noise is incredible. Just to illustrate the intensity, about a week ago another explosion happened near my apartment (Bush & Mason) and it set car alarms off for blocks in every direction. It actually reverberated in my apartment and set my cat sprinting for cover…and there is never any damage or debris found — just earth shattering bursts that freak everyone the fuck out.

I both heard a single loud BANG and saw a single, very bright FLASH while working atop the Hilton on O’Farrell one night. We couldn’t tell what happened at all but car alarms went off and a nearby firetruck put on its siren and circled the block a few times, then nothing happened. I was very confused by what could bang so loud, flash so bright (looked like blanket lightning even from the 26th floor) and could result in no news or police.

I’ve always been told it’s an M-80 being set off. It’s been happening as long as I’ve lived in this neighborhood- so at least 7 or 8 years. When I first moved in, I thought it was someone dropping a dumpster on a metal grate. Nope! M-80.

i hear the same thing on Leavenworth and O’farrell a lot. once it was so bright i saw the flash through my eyelids as i was dozing off to sleep. It always seems to happen in the intersections. i will always see a puff of smoke drifting in the direction of the wind afterwards when i look outside. real fucking LOUD!!

Audio of a blast caught by a security camera at Rose Hotel on 6th Street, followed by the sounds of nearby car alarms.

I have been wondering this for a year now. One night it was so freaking loud that it set of building alarms. Not just car alarms. The Laundromat across the street’s alarm got set off and the whole block was covered in smoke. Lots of peeps just standing around trying to figure it out and the police never showed up to even take a look. This was no firework. This was a motherfucking bomb type sound.

I heard one the other day so close that soon as it went off it felt like the widows shook and I launched several feet in the air…but when I ran to the window I couldn’t see anyone running off an didn’t hear any sirens…I’m guessing at this point whoever is doing it is having a blast knowing how confused everyone is. I heard from a woman who asked the TL police department about it that the cops don’t know what it is or who is responsible, but it’s really starting to frustrate them and apparently they are as flustered by it as everyone else.



Writer and designer uncovering lesser-known stories surrounding San Francisco culture & history — and beyond.

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Leanne Maxwell

Writer and designer uncovering lesser-known stories surrounding San Francisco culture & history — and beyond.