If You Think This Weather
By James Donahue
Some years back, while
scouring old microfilm records of newspapers from Chicago to Buffalo, collecting
historical information for a book on Nineteenth Century Great Lakes shipwrecks, I chanced upon a few reports of ultra strange
The Chicago Inter Ocean,
for example, reported that on July 12, 1883, the tugboat Mary McLane that experienced a pelting by two-pound hail stones,
as large as bricks, from what sailors described as “a cloudless sky.” This happened while the tug was assisting
larger ships in entering and leaving the port at Chicago in
the late afternoon. To prove their story, the sailors saved one of the ice chunks in the galley ice box to show friends when
the vessel made port for the night.
But the stories get even
stranger than that.
The late Charles Fort
gained fame at about the turn of the century for spending hours studying old newspaper files and collecting reports of such
oddities as frogs, fish, grain, snakes, ants, worms, cinders, salt and vegetable matter falling out of the sky. His books
are filled with stories of these and other unexplained events.
On July 12, 1873, Scientific
American reported a fall of frogs during a storm at Kansas City, Mo.
Arthur C. Clarke, in
his book Mysterious World, told of a fall of hazelnuts in Bristol, England, on Sunday, March 13, 1977. They said hundreds of nuts showered down on
their heads as they were coming home from church. It was especially strange since there were no nut trees in the area and
hazelnuts aren’t in season until September and October. This event occurred in early spring.
Gilbert Whitley listed about 50 different rains of fish in his country in a 1972 article published in Australian Natural History.
This writer vividly remembers
driving at night in a Michigan rainfall and noticing that
the road was covered with some kind of living creatures that appeared to have been fish or small frogs.
Mel Goldstein, chief
meteorologist at a New Haven, Connecticut television station,
told of a yacht race in Acapulco, Mexico
in 1968 when the “boats were littered with maggots after the rain.”
Scientific minds attempt
to explain away these odd events with suggestions that they are caused by tornados or waterspouts that draw things into the
sky before dropping them elsewhere.
But Clarke’s book
quotes William R. Corliss, who disputes such theories in his book: Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena.
Corliss notes that the
windstorm appears capable of selecting “only a single species of fish or frog or whatever animal is on the menu for
that day.” Corliss also argues that when falls like this happen, everything dropped seems to be of the same size, and
that there is no debris like sand or plant material falling with it.
After preparing this
story comes a new report of a fall of fish at the Gulf Islands
off the coast of Mississippi. It seems that National Seashore
Ranger Melissa Perez and an assistant, Adam Wilson, were pelted briefly with small fish while working on the park’s
pier during a rain.
They said the storm abated
and they dashed out on the pier to locate minnow traps they left there. That is when the fish, cold and icy, started falling
all around them. Perez said she thought the fall occurred within an area only about 20 feet in diameter.