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Ball Lightening
  1. Introduction
  2. Evidence

 

Introduction

Possible picture of ball lighteningOn July 5, 1852, a Periason man reported an extraordinary event. While sitting in his living room chair, a bright ball of light descended down his chimney and emerged from the fireplace. The fireball, about the size of a basketball, hesitated slightly and then darted towards him ‘like a cat’. He quickly withdrew his feet and the object slithered back into the center of the living room. He watched in dismay as the flaming ball of light disappeared back into the fireplace, rose up the chimney, and exploded, severely damaging the top of the chimney.

Although scientists quickly dismissed the incident as a ‘wild imagination’, hundreds more reports of similar sightings continued to flood authorities around the world, some accompanied by photographs attesting to the events.

At 6:30p.m., on October 08, 1919, dozens of people in Salina, Kansas reported a ‘ball of fire as large as a washtub floating low in the air’. The inexplicable object, seen at a busy downtown intersection, caused quite a bit of commotion when it struck the side of a building, tearing off chunks of brick and shattering windows on the second floor. At the moment of impact the fireball exploded into dozens of additional fireballs which floated away in all directions. These newly born ‘mini fireballs’ snaked along electrical wires, followed trolleys, and themselves caused additional damage. One exploded on a transformer causing a blackout.

Scientific Evidence

Most scientists scoff at these reports claiming there could be no rational explanations for the phenomena. One reason they site is that a ball of lightening as witnesses have described as lasting up to one minute ‘would require an energy content so high that there is no known way for it to be formed’. Some scientists claim that witnesses are simply seeing 'after images' of lightening strikes or possibly St. Elmo’s Fire (St. Elmo’s Fire, a corona discharge from a object extended above the ground during an electrical storm, differs from ball lightening in that St. Elmo’s Fire must move along a conductor and cannot float freely above the ground as ball lightening does).

So while scientists dismiss the anomaly, reports continue to flood authorities. In the spring of 1963, R.C. Jennison, a professor of electrical energy, experienced this strange aberration firsthand. While on a flight from New York to Washington, Mr. Jennison witnessed a ball lightening globe first outside the aircraft and was astounded when it passed through the airliner’s hull into the inside of the craft. "Microwave, electric, radio, or heat energy - all of these figure in the various theories - could not have gotten through the metal fuselage."

A viable explanation for ball lightening continues to elude scientists.

 

More Weather Mysteries!

Be sure to check out the Weather section of the site for more weather related mysteries...

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Heidi wrote us and pointed out that Laura Ingall Wilder's book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, describes a similar phenomena.  In the book there is a reference to 3 balls of fire coming down the stovepipe and acting weirdly, chasing knitting needles.  They scooted across the floor and then disappeared.
 

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And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' - M. Louise Haskings 1875-1957

 

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