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This is an unscientific collection of oddities, minor mysteries, bizarre incidents and human interest stories connected with historic natural phenomena. Most of the well-known unusual events have been left out, for being, well, too well-known. Accounts of mysterious lights and falls have also been kept to a minimum, as they are fields of study in their own right. All these accounts have been presented somewhere as fact, though some are undoubtedly rumours, exaggerations, tall stories, or inventions by long-forgotten journalists and chroniclers. But some actually happened. You decide which!

Mirage at St. Malo, France, 15 August 1902

Header Fires

Burning Pit in Dutweiler, in the Saarbruck Coal District
A burning pit in the Saarbruck coal district

58 AD

Tacitus says that flames shot up from the ground in Germany near Cologne. Tribesmen extinguished them by heaping old clothes over the vents.

937 AD

A mountain in Saxony vomited forth flames in many places.

1133 August 4

An earthquake in England. Holinshed says also that huge fires burst out of rifts in the earth, and could not be extinguished.


Lightning stated a fire in a Chinese coal mine. "The rain was hot in a circle of a hundred steps."

1711 (c.)

A 'burning well' was discovered at Broseley, Shropshire, about 60 yards from the River Severn, in a coalworks area. The well took fire when a flame was applied, and boiled a kettle in 9 minutes. About 1747 the burning well failed and a second was dug nearby. A pit explosion extinguished this about 1752.

1732 December

"Flames broke out at openings in the mountains" near Prague. In January, 1733, it was reported that the 'burning mountains' near Prague "continue to flame out in a terrible manner".

1738 August (c.)

A mountain in Fribourgh, Switzerland, was said to have emulated Vesuvius by opening with a terrible noise and casting out fire and stones. A later report said it was merely a forest fire burning for several weeks after a hot summer.

1751 August

After hot weather and rain, the cliffs of Charmouth in Dorset began to smoke, then burnt "with a visible but subtle flame". The flames were visible at intervals, especially after rain, till winter.

1761 January

Some days after an earthquake near Grenoble in France, during a terrible storm, the earth opened and flames came out.

1763 November 8

A coal pit near Glasgow in Scotland burnt underground for some years, and a water-filled pit above it boiled "like a cauldron". A young man coming home by night fell into the pit. He was found next morning "so boiled, that, on taking him out, his flesh came from the bones, and when he was interred, all that remained did not weigh the weight of a child".

1902 June 5

Smoke and frequent jets of fire were emitted from the mud of a shallow channel near the shore at Blundellsands, near Liverpool. There was a strong sulphurous odour. When the mud was stirred, yellow flames nearly a foot long burst out. The flames continued until they were covered by the tide.

Header Earth

Boiling Lake of Dominica
The Boiling Lake of Dominica

67 or 68 AD

A meadow and an olive field in central Italy moved from one place to another.

585 AD (c.)

A pond near Vannes in France, full of fish, was turned into blood. Packs of dogs and flocks of birds assembled every day to drink it.

856 AD December

During an earthquake, a hill in Yemen covered with fields moved from its place and became the property of another tribe.

865 AD

Lake Lebin in Ireland was changed into the colour of blood.


In the summer, a spring of blood burst out of the ground at Finchamstead in Berkshire. This happened again in the years 1100 and 1103.


The River Trent near Nottingham dried up for 24 hours, and men walked across it.

1178 December

At Oxenhale in England, a part of the earth lifted itself up, "like to a mighty tower". It remained so all day, then collapsed with a great noise, leaving a deep pit which was visible for many years after.

1212 (c.)

The inhabitants around a lake in a forest near Carlisle called it 'the lake that cries'. Every day at 1 pm there was heard from it the ringing of mysterious bells.


The river Wye near Hereford dried up for an hour. It could be crossed dry shod.

1571 February 17

After an earthquake, Marclay Hill in Herefordshire moved 400 yards in three days, carrying with it sheep, hedgerows and trees. A similar story is told about Kinnaston Hill, also in Herefordshire, which on February 7, 1570, moved 40 paces and overthrew a chapel.


Thomas Short says, "A Three-acre Close in Dorsetshire shifted Places in one Night". Also on August 4, 1586, "a Close in Kent shifted Situation".


An earthquake at Chichester in Sussex, which did great damage. It was accompanied by the smell of pitch and sulphur. The atmosphere was obscured "as if by a cloud".


The hot springs of Carlsbad in Bohemia burst out and floods of hot water poured into the river Tepel. This happened again in 1727.

1714 October

One of the peaks of Les Diablerets (the Devil's horns) in Switzerland collapsed in a gigantic landslide. A herdsman, whose hut was buried under rubble and who was presumed dead, reappeared three months later on Christmas Eve. He had survived on cheese and a stream of water. A second great slide occurred here in 1749. The inhabitants, heeding the premonitory signs, escaped in time. Five citizens of Berne refused to flee, "and the house in which they remained is thought to be five hundred feet below the present surface".

1733 April (c.)

Casa Nova in Calabria was "sunk 29 feet into the Earth" by an earthquake. Only five people were killed, the rest having been warned by a "prodigious Noise in the Air".


A remarkable series of earthquakes shook Carlswich in Swabia. A continuous slight trembling of the ground went on the whole time. People who pressed an ear to the earth said they heard a sound like a vast mass of boiling water. The mountains were shrouded in thick mists, which seemed to be illuminated by a dim light, and globes of fire were seen on their sides.


Visitors to the cave of Dalsteen in the Hebrides (which was supposed to extend below the sea towards Scotland) said they heard the rushing of the sea above their heads. A stone which they threw into a ravine was heard falling for more than a minute. Both statements were said to be 'exaggerations'.


During an eruption of the Icelandic volcano Katla, lightning from the ash cloud killed 2 men and 11 horses, and bored cylindrical holes in rocks.


A French woman was gathering sticks with four friends in the forest of Montenere. Suddenly, she cried out, and fell forward dead. A slight motion was seen in some little stones around her, and a little dust rose. Her clothes and shoes had been torn to ribbons and were scattered round the body, which was terribly injured.

1755 September 11

Violent earthquake shocks threw down buildings at Nord-Syssel. All the following day the waters of a little river nearby ran white like milk.

1756 July 10

An earthquake at Lisbon. A cloud of smoke, smelling of sulphur, rose from the ground and obscured the Sun.

1759 August 18 (c.)

A pond at Melbury-bub in Dorset was covered in the morning with a thick scarlet oily substance, which changed in the afternoon to green. An absurd story from the 18th Century which turns out to be a fact. It was actually due to microscopic one-celled organisms which change colour in response to sunlight.

1760 January 18

An earthquake at Aix-la-Chapelle was accompanied by "great blasts of wind, increasing and decreasing with the shocks".

1763 October 5

A mountain called Kerkaece, in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, 'burst' with a great noise. A torrent of water poured out and flowed into a nearby river, "carrying all before it".

1764 November 25

The River Ayre in Scotland dried up for half a mile. Boys caught stranded fish. On the next tide, the waters returned to their usual height.

1783 May 31 (before)

A large part of a forest near Landhur in Poland "suddenly disappeared". The
Gentleman's Magazine, itself fond of rumours, remarked sarcastically, "As we are not accustomed to such phenomena in our part of the world, everyone is impatient to learn the particulars of this occurrence".

1819 (c.)

An ice avalanche fell 1,500 feet from the Weisshorn. The village of Rauda, though untouched by the avalanche, had most of its houses levelled by the blast of air it caused. Roofs and beams were blown for over a mile.

1840 May

J. C. Ross visited the sub-Antarctic island of Kerguelen, in the Indian Ocean. He saw no land animals, but did discover the footprints of "a pony or ass" in recently fallen snow. The prints were followed for some distance, but lost on rocks. Something very similar (and much more famous) happened in Devon on February 8th, 1855.

1842 March 17

The 'weak-minded' of London became convinced that an earthquake would destroy their city on this day, after some prophecies said to have been written in the year 1203 were published in newspapers. "A great number of timid persons left the metropolis". The perpetrator of the 'prophecies' later confessed, saying that they were "an experiment on public credulity".

1859 March

An American who had just received "disastrous news from home" threw himself into a current of lava on Mount Vesuvius. "His body was almost instantly consumed".

1864 July 23 (before)

A large hill in the Chindwarrah district of India "melted down in one night into a lake". The natives were "lost in amazement".


During 1896 and for several years previously, subterranean noises were frequently heard at East Mersea in Essex. They resembled a heavy door slamming, or "the shooting down of a load of coal". The noises, known as 'earth-grumblings' were often loud enough to attract the attention of farm labourers ploughing in the fields.

1896 December 17

A large earthquake damaged buildings in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and one place in Worcestershire in the early mornings. People in north-facing bedrooms in Worcester saw 'a great light' accompanying the shock. Some attributed this to lightning, others to a meteor. An observer 7 miles east of Worcester saw at the time of the shock a great blaze of light low in the northern sky which lasted several seconds. "He was unable to attribute this to a lightning effect".

1929 November 9

An eruption of the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala killed 1,000 persons. A secondary peak, La Rija (the daughter) erupted a "rain of red-hot sand" which set fire to nearby villages. Many people fell and were suffocated by a cloud of poisonous gas which crept along the ground "about a yard deep". Rivers blocked by lava flows sent boiling water flooding over their banks.

1933 September 1

The waters of Lough Na Suil, a lake at Geevagh, Co. Sligo, Ireland, disappeared early in August and reappeared at the end of the month. On Sept. 1 they vanished again, draining away through a cavity, the 'Gulf of Balor's Eye', 20 feet long. The rest of the lake, 45 acres in size, was left completely dry. "The second disappearance of the waters...caused terror locally, for it broke the tradition that the waters vanish every 100 years".

1934 May 19 (before)

The Tokyo newspaper
Yomiuiri Shimbun sponsored a descent into the crater of Mihara Yama, a volcano in the Oshima Islands, in the hope of reducing the number of suicides there. Over 200 people threw themselves into the crater in 1933. Two journalists, in asbestos suits and gasmasks, were lowered in a steel gondola to a depth of 1,250 feet. The heat was tolerable, but the gondola swung violently in the force of the eruptions. "The remains of numerous suicides were seen".

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Scylla and Charybdis


A small boat containing seven men "of small stature and foreign appearance" was captured near the English coast by a French ship. "The appearance...of these people exactly answers to the look and manner of Esquimaux". Six of the men died on board ship. The seventh was presented to the king of France.

1645 February 12

The great whirlpool of the Moskoe-ström, or Maelstrom, between Lofoden and Moskoe in Norway, "raged with such noise and impetuosity that the very stones of the houses on the coast fell to the ground".


A traveller aboard a ship near Novaya Zemla said he distinctly saw the bottom of the sea covered with shells through five hundred feet of water. It was claimed that in some places in the West Indies "glimpses of the bottom of the sea may be obtained at a depth of 273 yards" (819 feet).

1756 February 27

At 6 pm, the sea at Ilfracombe in Devon rose six feet, and remained so for half an hour, 'boiling' in a "remarkable manner".

1760 (before)

Two Dutch ships claimed to have reached a latitude of 89°, one degree from the North Pole, and found the sea "free and open, tho' of an unfathomable depth". (However improbable this story sounds, they were right about the depth. The sea at the North Pole is 13,560 feet deep). Another Dutchman "of great veracity" said he had passed over the Pole, and found the weather "as warm as at Amsterdam ".

1770 April 30 (c.)

A French East Indiaman arriving at Toulon reported that after an earthquake at St. Helena in the South Atlantic, the island had sunk into the ocean. A story which of course turned out to be false, but just what stimulated it remains a mystery.

1806 February 9

On a cold day at Pillau in East Prussia, an iron chain lost in the Baltic Sea rose from a depth of about 18 feet encrusted with ice several feet thick. Large stones, thickly coated with ice, also rose to the surface. A cable, lost 30 feet down the previous summer, appeared, coated in ice 2 feet thick. This was a manifestation of 'ground ice', the sudden freezing of deep water.

1851 October 30

A Captain Denham claimed to have made a deep sea sounding of 46.233 feet near the mouth of the River Plate, but the rope broke on being hauled up.

1861 December 20

The vessel
Exmouth, near Torre Del Greco, encountered a whirlpool 360 feet in diameter, which was boiling violently and emitting a strong sulphurous smell. A beautiful light green 'tail' extended in the direction of Sorrento. The water was tepid, and many fish had been killed.

1882 spring

After several great gales off the American east coast, an estimated 1,400 million tile-fish were found dead, covering the surface of the sea for a distance of 300 miles. The cause was believed to be an invasion of the Gulf Stream by cold water. The species was "well-nigh exterminated", though a 'remnant' survived.

1925 January

A 'volcanic outburst' under the sea threw millions of dead sharks, soles, stock-fish and other species onto the beach at Waler's Bay, Cape Town. The dead fish formed heaps two miles long and up to two feet deep.

1933 March 6

A scientific expedition directed by Dr. Paul Bartsch claimed a new Atlantic depth of 44,000 feet, or almost 9 miles.

1938 July 28

The SS
Serbino, in the Arabian Sea, reported that streaks of marine phosphorescence on the sea surface assumed the form of a huge 'wheel', with spokes radiating from a point on the horizon and rotating rapidly clockwise at a speed of 90 rpm. On the port bow a luminous 'catherine wheel' about 50 feet wide also revolved at 90 rpm.

1950 August 13 to 15

Unusual phosphorescence was widely reported in the Arabian Sea. The MV
British Respect reported that the sea "was one sheet of glowing light, the colour of milk, reaching from horizon to horizon, giving the impression that we were preceding across a huge flat field of snow".

Header Lights 02

Ignis Fatuus

583 AD January 31

Gregory of Tours described a brilliant fireball which emerged from a cloud, travelled 'a considerable distance' and disappeared behind another cloud. This was not an extraterrestrial meteor entering the atmosphere, as it was seen below an overcast sky with rain. Gregory describes a few other fireballs, but without enough details to decide if they were or were not meteors.

654 AD

Two brothers of Egbert, King of Kent, were murdered at Eastry. Later, "a bright shining piller...with terrible and fearful light" appeared in the house.

1395 November & December

A "thing...in the likeness of fire" haunted Leicestershire and Northamptonshire during the winter. It seemed to follow people walking alone, but appeared far off to a crowd. Some described it as a 'turning wheel burning' or a burning barrel or burning lance.

1671 March 31

Schamaki or Chamaki. A nocturnal earthquake, one of several in this place in 1671. It was accompanied by thunder and lightning, and a vast number of 'balls of fire', which fell from the heavens, and terrified the inhabitants.

1731 December 9

A slight earthquake shook Florence. "The same day a luminous cloud was seen, driven with some violence from E. to W., where it disappeared below the horizon...said to have been quite different from an aurora borealis."

1767 January 2

Edinburgh, Scotland. A violent thunderstorm from 9 pm to morning. "The sky, for minutes at a time, appeared covered with fire: and a fiery meteor, of a round shape, was seen for a considerable time, running from north to south, with prodigious velocity." The sky was (presumably) overcast, so this was not an extraterrestrial meteor. An all-night thunderstorm with vivid lightning in January is remarkable enough.

1833 September (?)

A 'meteor' as large as the Moon was seen at Islay in Scotland for over a minute. It moved from east to west very slowly. There was no tail or train, and the fireball did not burst.


Palamcottah, South India. On a clear moonless night, two men indoors saw a bright light shining outside. They went out and saw a brilliant object in the sky to the north, brighter than the Moon. G. Pettit was called out to see it; by then it had faded considerably, but was still a 'glorious object'. It was about 45 degrees above the horizon, the size of the Moon, oval with a 'hook' on the right side. It remained motionless for 20 minutes, slowly fading away. Was this a brilliant meteor which left a long-lasting 'cloud'? The fact that it did not move (even though the meteor may have been heading directly towards the observers, the 'cloud' should have showed some motion) suggests otherwise.

1846 July 25

A woman near Gloucester saw a cloud open at about 10 pm, and a meteor "the size and colour of the Moon" emerge, which shed a light like day. It moved downward, then was 'instantly' withdrawn into the cloud.

1851 May 2

On an overcast night near Madras, India, a 'circular illumination' about 10 degrees in diameter, was seen in the clouds. It lasted about a minute, and remained motionless.

1876 August 17

On a sultry afternoon at Ringstead Bay in Dorset, globes of light the size of billiard balls were seen floating near the edge of the cliffs. Their numbers varied from 20 to 'thousands'. They always eluded the grasp of the observers. At 10 pm there was a thunderstorm.

1877 July 25

During a storm in south Sweden, "a tremulous mass of red light" was seen hovering over a little inland lake.

1896 December 18

During a thunderstorm at Brixham in Devon a moving globe of light appeared, which tore up the ground. It knocked a hole in the wall of a small house, and continued along a ropewalk, where one man was killed and another badly injured.

1897 July 11

S. A. Andree and two companions took off from Spitzbergen in an attempt to reach the North Pole by balloon. The balloon ended its flight on the ice on July 14, 192 miles away. There were many sightings of 'balloons' after the flight. Some were equipped with cars and drag-ropes; one seen in Siberia on October 2 had an 'electric sheen'. Most of the 'balloons' were seen over Siberia or British Columbia in Canada.

1898 October 19

Ballyarthur, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, about 6 pm. A golden coloured object, looking like a three-quarter moon, was seen in the south-west. It moved gradually from south-east to north-west, and appeared to go down behind the Croghan Kinsella mountains. The body was visible 4 or 5 minutes. "May have been merely an escaped balloon".

1927 March 23

Several people around Plymouth (Devon) reported seeing what was probably the same lightning ball. A greenish-blue fireball at Cattewater exploded, shaking a building, causing much plaster to fall, and fusing electric lights. A revolving ball of flame shooting out sparks was seen at the R.N. Dockyard at Turnchapel, 11/4 miles away; then a 'terrific explosion' shook a building and knocked down a policeman outside. About 11/2 miles from Cattewater a woman saw a red and yellow revolving mass in the sky.

1929 February 20

'Ghostly flares' like St. Elmo's Fire were seen about the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado for two nights. They were so bright that aeroplanes were sent out to search for stranded hikers, "but no trace of human beings were found".

1936 June 21

Stone, Staffordshire. About 5 pm, during a violent thunderstorm, a "brown globe", about 7 inches high and 5 inches wide, "like a large coconut" moved slowly along about 6 feet above the ground, "then exploded with terrific force and a great flash of light. The noise was heard all over the town".

1946 July 27-28

The flight of 'mysterious objects' over Norway was reported during July. On the night of July 27-28 Oslo was "shaken by two great explosions...in the air". On August 17 the Norwegian Defence Ministry said, "A foreign Power is using Scandinavia to test their V-weapons, and we are not going to help them by giving any information as to where the projectiles are landing".

Header Falls

582 AD

At three places in Paris, "real blood rained from a cloud", and people stripped off their stained clothes in horror. In Senlis a man woke to find the inside of his house spattered with blood.

673 AD (c.)

During the reign of Fionachta, "an enormous quantity of wine fell like fleeces of snow from the sky."

873 AD (doubtful date)

Blood rained in Brescia, Italy, for three nights.

878 AD

A shower of blood in Ireland which left lumps of gore strewn upon the plains of Connaught.

896 AD

Vermin like moles with two teeth fell out of the air in Ireland and ate everything up. Something similar happened at Bergen, Norway, in 1578, when "big yellow mice" fell.

1093 or 1094 April 10 or 1

Many shooting stars were seen in France. A very large one was found on the ground as a glowing substance.


There was a rain of blood-coloured earth at Rome for three days. 'Earth' probably means 'dust', and this, like many blood-rains, was probably a fall of Sahara dust.

1247 February 18 or 20

An earthquake at Holywell. At the same time "great quantities of blood" fell in Cheshire.

1387 October 14

A small cloud appeared in the sky of Derbyshire, and rained blood over an area "as great as a bowshot in circuit".


A fall of insects with snow in Hungary.

1755 October 20

A great quantity of black dust, smelling of sulphur, fell from a hazy sky over the Shetland Isles. People in the fields had their faces and hands blackened by it. The dust was not observed in Orkney. The Icelandic volcano Katlegias had erupted the day previously.

1760 July 9

A "dew of honey" fell near Rothermuc in Ireland. It loaded the trees and grass so heavily that quantities were saved by scoops. English journals believed it might have been the exudations of aphids.

1770 February 3 (c.)

Many living insects fell in a shower of rain at Stolpe in Poland. Some of them were of a type "never seen before in that neighbourhood".

1773 October

Lumps of translucent jelly-like matter were found scattered in a circle of about a yard diameter in a field at 'Shotton'. The matter appeared again here in October 1774. It was not seen to fall.

1777 September 10

A 'shooting star' fell within a few yards of a sentinel of Washington's army in Pennsylvania. He went to the spot and found a gelatinous mass, "still sparkling".

1811 July

A gelatinous substance fell at Heidelberg after a fireball.


A mass of ice fell in India, nearly a cubic yard in size. It "must have weighed more than one hundredweight". It took several days to melt.

1841 June 30

An outbreak of falling fish. A nocturnal thunderstorm covered a high meadow in North Germany with pike, perch, roach and smaller fish, some still alive. Birds arrived to eat them. Charles Fort says that on the same day there was a fish fall at Boston (Lincolnshire or USA?) and eight days later an 'enormous' fall of fish, frogs and ice at Derby.

1846 November 11

A meteor the size of the Sun was visible for 5 minutes at Lowell, Massachusetts before bursting. A stone of 442 lbs. was discovered, "having a disagreeable smell". Other sources say the 'stone' was "a body of foetid jelly four feet in diameter".

1864 July 2 (before)

A 'sulphurous rain-pour' from an 'electric cloud' fell upon Keith and Fife Keith in Scotland. Watertanks and wayside pools received a covering of 'sulphur' as thick as a sixpence. The substance was identified by its smell.

1871 August 12

During a storm, a police station at Cardiff in Wales was struck by a 'meteoric stone', which did some damage. A "shower of small green frogs" also fell.

1922 March

During a heavy snowstorm in the Dauphine Alps, numbers of living spiders, ants, caterpillars and other insects, "unknown to the region" fell with the snow and were later buried by another fall.

1928 May 29

Dozens of tiny red fish were found on the roof of a bungalow near Comber in Ireland, and on the ground around. Just before the fish were found there had been a thunderstorm. The nearest body of water is Strangford Loch, two miles away.

Header Air

Non-concentric and supernumerary rainbows observed at Nya in Sweden, 1875


"A great Heap of Clouds fell out of the Air". Many persons were suffocated. Recorded by the 18th century chronicler Dr. Thomas Short. If this ever actually happened, it may have been a tornado.

1205 July 29

After tremendous all-night thunderstorms in England, probably with tornadoes, "monstrous footprints were visible in many places of a type never before seen." A similar phenomenon happened in Wales in 1200.


A great sound was heard in several parts of England at the same time, like the noise of some mighty mountain that had fallen into the sea." This may have been the explosion of a bolide.

1286 March 18

King Alexander III of Scotland died when he was blown off a cliff near Inverkeithing by a violent easterly gale.


Two castles appeared in the air. The one in the south-east was white, the one in the south-west was black. About noon, black armed men emerged from the black castle, and a white host from the white castle, and fought in the sky. At first the white army prevailed, then was defeated. The Eulogium Historiarum says that at midnight on February 25, 1361, a luminous fiery cloud appeared in the sky, "and in the brightness of it were seen men".


Horsemen in armour were seen in the air during the day, led by St. George wearing a red cross.

1498 July 13

On Columbus' third voyage, from the Cape Verde Islands, his ships encountered a calm and "burning heat" which lasted eight days. Casks of wine and water burst, snapping their hoops, wheat burnt and meat roasted.

1572 August 30

On an intensely hot day in Paris, eight days after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, "tumultuous voices" were heard in the air. For about half an hour, many persons, including the King, Charles IX, heard "groans, mixed with cries of rage and fury".

1661 February 18

A great thunderstorm in London and elsewhere. The rain in many places was as salt as brine.

1678 December

"A vast number of armed men" were seen on Creech Barrow in Dorset, during the evening, "and a great noise and clashing of arms was supposed to have been heard". Over a hundred people saw this. The year may be 1668 or 1698. A sceptical 18th century writer suggested that this phenomenon was caused by the evening sun shining on low-hanging clouds. A similar event was seen in Leicestershire in 1707, and in the Southfield-mountain in Cumberland on June 21, 1735, 1737 and 1745. The last appearance "made a great noise in the north".

1688 October 30

About Bristol, "men and guns and drums" were seen in the night sky. Elsewhere, the flickering streamers of a great aurora caused alarm.

1754 December 10

Three men walking through St. John's Vale in Cumberland during a thunderstorm complained, one after the other, of "uncommon oppression of the lungs". Two of them then fell "almost instantly" dead. The third man fled, and survived.

1768 January 7

An intense frost in London. On January 7, a fishing boat was discovered in an ice-choked Deptford creek with its crew frozen to death.

1784 March 20

A new island suddenly appeared off the coast of Malta. Sailors and fishermen set out to take possession of it, until it turned out to be the summit of Mount Etna. Later, the hills and buildings of Sicily became visible. This was a magnifying and elevating mirage.

1799 February 2

Elizabeth Woodcock, a farmer's wife, was returning at night to Impington from Cambridge, in deep snow, when she was overcome by fatigue half a mile from home and buried by thickly falling snow. She was found alive on February 10, still buried. Her frostbitten toes were amputated. She died on July 13.

1815 June 18

The cannon fire at the Battle of Waterloo was heard at many places in the south of England, including Heathfield, Sussex (184 miles away). At Sandgate, Kent (144 miles away) very heavy firing was heard all day to the east.

1837 July 31

The brigantine
Judith and Esther encountered a hurricane in the Atlantic during the night. The captain saw near the zenith "a white appearance of a round form"; while he was looking at this a sudden gust carried away the topmast. During the hurricane, the crew's sight became dim. Their fingernails turned black, and remained so for nearly five weeks.

1837 August 18

The ship
Rawline passed through or near the eye of a hurricane. A "solid black perpendicular wall" was seen rising 15 or 20 degrees above the horizon. It appeared and disappeared several times. This was probably the 'eyewall', the circle of clouds which surrounds the hurricane's calm centre.

1851 August 21

A 'Miss F.E.', in the New Radnor Valley in Wales, saw an exact image of herself projected on a thin rising mist seemingly a few yards away. The figure was facing her and followed her movements. Miss F.E. fled.

1855 January 25

A train on the Chicago and Mississippi Railroad was trapped by snow 8 feet deep. The passengers kept warm by burning the cars and ate a cargo of oysters until help came on the 28th.

1856 April 9

The clipper ship
Light of the Age encountered a hurricane in the South Atlantic (where hurricanes are not supposed to happen), in 41° 35' S., 30° 52' W. A "low dark ring" was seen "all round the horizon from noon till dusk", and at 11.30 pm a shrill whistle like "a railway screech" was heard just before the storm burst, driving the ship at over 20 mph.

1857 May 2 (before)

A magnifying mirage seen in Hungary; inscriptions on tombstones in a village 3 miles away were perfectly legible. Houses and people in the streets appeared of colossal size. "The ignorant multitude interpret it as a sign of the end of the world, which they confidently expect to take place on the 13th of June."

1864 February 22

A brilliant lunar halo was seen from Inverness, with two mock moons. The Moon bore on her disc "a dark shadow, in form somewhat like a cross". On February 19 (OS), 1785, a cross was seen on the face of the Moon during a lunar halo display in Russia.

1864 April 11

A 'fog' of dry white powder engulfed Tiflis in the Caucasus for 24 hours. Microscopic examination of the powder revealed it to be ashes.

1867 January 15

Over 40 people were drowned when the ice on Regent's Park lake in London suddenly gave way while about 500 people were skating on it. Cracks radiated with sharp reports in every direction, and within a minute the whole ice sheet was in fragments of a few yards square.

1870 May 22-23

The Sun shone pink, "inclining to purple" through a haze at Dunmurry, Co. Antrim, Ireland, during the afternoon. The observer said, "I never before saw (the Sun's) colour on the purple side of red". A pink Sun was widely seen in England, and at Rohrbach on the Mosselle on the 23rd, where the Sun appeared 'rose-coloured' through an afternoon mist.

1879 August 3

A hailstorm devastated Kew Gardens. 700 panes of glass were shattered in the Palm House and 3,000 in the Temperate House. Some panes had circular holes cut in them.

1892 April 29

A tropical cyclone struck Mauritius. The upper part of a 49-feet high column built of stone blocks was overthrown by the wind. It was calculated that to achieve this the wind must have exceeded 200 miles an hour.

1898 September 11

During a hurricane at St. Vincent in the West Indies, the rain which fell at Kingstown was hot and stinking, and rotted clothes exposed to it. It was believed to have come from the crater lake of Soufriére. But how did the water retain its heat after being lifted from the lake?

1903 October 31

An observer in Calgary, Canada, claimed to have been 'literally chased' in his buggy by the beams of an aurora which gradually lowered until their tips touched the ground. The nearest 'huge shafts' were "but a few yards off. A horse in a field alongside tore madly round in terror"

1904 May 27

London was visited by an "intensely dark foggy gloom". Street and indoor lights had to be switched on. The darkness was accompanied by unusual oscillations of the barometer. May 27th does seem rather late in the year for a smog.

1913 March 23

The atmosphere became highly charged with electricity during a dust storm in western Kansas. People touching windmills received a sometimes severe shock. Telephone wires and wire fences also became charged. In Scott County, where the phenomena were most intense, sparks from a broken wire fence started a prairie fire. This was on the same day as the deadly Omaha, Nebraska, tornado.


A hired worker on a farm near Mullinville, Kansas, claimed to have seen the interior of a tornado when it passed over the barn he was sheltering in. He said the inside of the funnel was hollow and lit up by lightning. "As the hired man was not well known, no one paid much attention to what he said".

1917 April 11

A Turkish division in Mesopotamia, caught before British forces in a position destitute of cover, was completely hidden from view by a mirage. "Fighting had to be temporarily suspended".

1919 May 9

The pilot of an aeroplane flying at 26,000 feet over Germany observed a streak of cloud forming behind him. The cloud reached a length of about 40 miles, then spread out into a cirrocumulus cloud. Is this the earliest recorded contrail?

1922 December 5

A white ring of light passed over Biggin Hill aerodrome in Kent at 8.30 pm, moving with a stiff westerly wind. The sky was covered with detached clouds. The ring appeared about 60 degrees in diameter when overhead. After passing the zenith it broke up and vanished.

1923 February 1

Mysterious sounds were heard from the Comeragh and Peak mountains near Seskin in Ireland. They resembled thunder, 'lakes overflowing', 'machinery' or a 'great roaring'. The weather was quite calm. The sounds came out of the mountains "where there are neither roads or tracks or men". Mysterious mountain sounds were again heard here on February 8, 1928.

1923 October 31

At Marble Bar, Western Australia, the shade temperature reached or exceeded 100° F. on every day until April 7, 1924.

1928 April 7

A solar and lunar halo were seen simultaneously in London at 5.30 am. Both haloes showed colours. The Sun rose at 5.24 am and the Moon set at 6.45 am.

1929 June 24

Cricket-ball sized hailstones fell with a sound like machine-gun fire at Durban, South Africa, doing much damage. A hailstone was picked up while the storm was at its height and rushed to a photographer's studio, where it was photographed by flashlight. It was larger than a tennis-ball.

1930 May 18

A nocturnal storm on Lake Victoria Nyanza had a diameter not exceeding 30 miles, with clockwise-rotating winds of force 8 or 10 round a calm centre. It moved slowly from SE to NW across the Equator.

1933 January 18

A dust storm in east Wyoming stripped all the paint from exposed parts of cars and pitted glass into opacity. "All insulated objects became amazingly charged electrically". Ignition systems of cars were completely disrupted. The induced current was sufficient to start small electric motors.

Header Lightning

Lightning and the Eiffel Tower

1149 January

A yew tree at Clonmacnoise in Ireland, said to be over 600 years old, was struck by lightning. 113 sheep underneath were killed.

1492 April 5

A 'thunderbolt' fell from a cloudless sky upon the church of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

1754 December 14

A "cloud of fire" covered the whole village of St. Aubin in Lorraine. A great clap of thunder followed. The church was severely damaged. Stones of over 80 lbs. weight were thrown 22 yards.

1771 August 30

A labourer of Irwin in Scotland, who had been deaf for 20 years, was cured when he was struck by lightning.

1850 July 16

Two men ascending a coal-pit at Fern-hill Colliery, Lancashire, fell to the bottom of the shaft and were badly hurt when their rope was cut in two by lightning.

1855 June 5

A flash of lightning at Himmelsfurth in Austria penetrated a mine-shaft 1,000 feet deep, and gave violent shocks to a number of miners working on a vein of ore.

1856 July

One of Europe's oldest trees, a 786-year old oak at Chatilllon-sur-Seine, France, was struck by lightning.

1869 September 5

A young man and his sweetheart, walking in a field in east Yorkshire, were killed by lightning. "Their bodies were found side by side, and the only marks of injury found on them were some cuts and bruises caused by their fall".

1903 December

The steamer
Sophocles was struck by lightning in the Bay of Biscay. A rushing sound was then heard, and the passengers saw an 'object' plunge into the sea a few yards away, raising a great splash.

1913 December

Lightning struck a bell-wire on the headgear of a South African mine, descended 4,000 feet and exploded 11 dynamite cartridges. Eight workers were killed.

1923 September 23

During the Gordon Bennett Balloon Race, which started from Brussels, lightning destroyed three of the competing balloons, with 5 of the 6 aeronauts killed. On May 30, 1928, the National Balloon Race from Pittsburgh was disrupted by thunderstorms; three balloons were struck by lightning and two aeronauts killed. 11 of the 14 balloons were forced down by storms within 31 miles of the start.


The second arch of the 1,260-foot long bridge joining Norway and Sweden over the Svine Sund was destroyed when lightning exploded a mine on the Swedish side.

Header Space

The total solar eclipse of May 17, 1882. A comet near the Sun.


A comet "was fatal to the cats in Westphalia".

1530 April 13

At dawn from Damascus the Sun showed "two eyes and brows that gave it the likeness of a human face". This was probably an observation of naked-eye sunspots.

1590 July 7

Tycho Brahe observed a lunar eclipse at 3.45 am during which the Sun and Moon were at the same time above the horizon. "For the centre of the Sun emerged when the Moon was 2° elevated above the Western horizon, and when her centre was setting, the centre of the Sun was elevated nearly 2°". On June 16, 1666, the Moon was seen in Tuscany to rise eclipsed, the Sun having not yet set in the west. On May 26, 1668, the Sun rose during an eclipse of the Moon, as seen from near Paris.

1620 June 15

Kepler and others observed a lunar eclipse in which the Moon disappeared completely to the naked eye. The sky was quite clear, and 4th and 5th magnitude stars were visible. This happened again during the lunar eclipse of December 9, 1620. On April 14, 1642, during a lunar eclipse, Hevelius could discern no trace of the Moon even with a telescope, though the sky was full of stars. On May 18, 1761, the eclipsed Moon vanished for half an hour in a clear sky even through a telescope.

1678 March 3

Samuel Jeake, of Rye in Kent, said that in the evening the planet Venus cast a distinct shadow, "as the Moon a little after the New".

1681 November 2

The planet Jupiter "appeared deserted by his guards"; of the four major satellites, three were transiting the disc and one was behind the planet. This happened again on September 27, 1843.

1694 June 21

King Charles the 11th of Sweden visited Tornea in Finland to observe the Midnight Sun, and "there was a striking exhibition of this phenomenon". At Tornea's latitude the Sun actually sets for a short time, but remains visible by refraction.

1707 or 1708

Dr. S. Clarke and the Rev. W. Whiston, observing Saturn through a telescope, saw a star in one of the dark spaces between the ring and the planet.


Excitement spread through London when a strange bright object was seen in the daytime sky. Many feared it was a portent of disaster, until the astronomer Halley explained that it was the planet Venus.

1819 June 26

The great comet of 1819 made a nearly central transit of the Sun's disc during the morning. The German astronomer Pastoroff saw a round dark nebulous spot on the Sun, with a bright point at its centre. He claimed that this was the comet. Other astronomers thought that there was "either error or fraud" in Pastoroff's observation.

1844 April 29

Many small stones fell at Killeter, Co. Tyrone, Ireland. No meteor was seen. 'Musical sounds' were heard in the air. On August 4, 1642, 'melodious' sounds preceded the fall of a meteorite in Suffolk.

1844 October 27

A dazzling meteor as large as the Moon was seen from Parce sur Sarthe in France. A detonation was heard 3 or 4 minutes later. The astronomer Petit calculated that the meteor's velocity through space was 73,540 m/sec. He thought it was an 'intra-stellar' body, which traversed space from one star to another, with a hyperbolic orbit.

1849 August 11

A meteor recorded by E. Heis 'displayed incandescence' at a height of 216 miles above the Earth. The meteor scientist W. F. Denning said that meteors in 'extremely rare instances' may be 150 miles high when first visible, but "there are grave doubts that any meteor has ever been visible at a height of 200 miles".

1849 November 1

"Several meteoric explosions and meteors" during the day over South Carolina. In the evening there was a fine display of shooting stars.

1863 April 15

C. Mason saw Jupiter's satellites with the naked eye as "a little star" west of the planet. Viewing Jupiter through a telescope, he found that all the satellites were on its west side.

1865 March 26 (reported)

Professor Newmager, a Bavarian scientist, told an audience in Melbourne, Australia, that in 1865 a comet would approach close enough to endanger the Earth, and might annihilate our planet or attach itself "as one globule of quicksilver to another". Should this not happen, the Earth would be bathed for three nights in the brilliant light of the tail. Professor Newmager later strongly denied saying this.

1865 May 8

At 9.23 am, the astronomer Coumbary of Constantinople saw a small black point detach itself from a sunspot and pass across the Sun's disc in 48 minutes. After its separation it assumed an oval form and seemed about to divide in two.

1878 August 28

At the end of August the 'north maculose zone' of the Sun was crowded with spots, while the south zone contained "only punctures and small clusters". On August 28, the spotted zone could be seen by the protected naked eye as "a dusky belt parallel to the Sun's equator".

1879 June 7

A brilliant meteor was seen from Geneva, Neuchatel, Zug and Milan. It moved in a 'zig-zag' or sinuous path. Four minutes after it vanished an explosion was heard. The Gazette de Lausanne reported that almost at the same time, 'a shower of aerolites' fell into Lake Lugano, causing huge waves which nearly overturned several fishing boats.

1880 June 30

At 7.30 am, during sunshine, 'Earthlight' was seen on the Moon at 21 hours past last quarter, in Italy. "The circle appeared complete, the dark side being smaller than the bright, of a more lilac tint than the deep blue Italian sky". Two people present were unable to see the phenomenon.

1887 August 19

A Russian astronomer ascended in a balloon to a height of over two miles to observe a total solar eclipse. He had a clear view of a magnificent corona, though the management of the balloon prevented astronomical work. On the ground, "clouds prevailed very generally".

1896 November 17

The steamer
Wilkommen, sailing from Danzig to New York, saw an immense meteor apparently fall into the ocean ahead of the vessel at 48° 10'N. , 44° E. It left a trail of light visible for several minutes. Fifty minutes later, a great wave swept over the steamer.

1904 July 31

Prof. W. H. Pickering at the Lowe Observatory in California observed a bright hazy object 2" in diameter on the floor of the lunar crater Plato. Earlier observations in July had failed to show it. On August 2, it had been replaced by a black elliptical shadow two miles in diameter. To the NE and N there was a large white area. On August 22 a telegram 'confirmed' the existence of a new crater about 3 miles across.

1912 July 19

About 16,000 stone meteorites fell over a 2 x 3 mile area at Holbrook, Arizona. A small boy reported, "It's raining rocks out here!"

1925 January 25

A total solar eclipse in the United States was reported to have been watched by 15 million people. "Many astronomers went up in aeroplanes to observe it".

1926 April 8

"One of the brightest appearances of the Zodiacal Light ever seen" was observed over the Solway Firth in Scotland. The Light was 4 to 6 times as bright as the Milky Way, and "of a golden tint", one of the very rare occasions on which the Light has shown colour.

1929 June 11

"A huge meteor about the size of a ship" fell into Lake Superior near Michipicoten Island. The island was illuminated like daylight and a rumbling noise was heard for two minutes after the fall. "Quite a sea rose" after the meteor fell, and the level of the lake rose appreciably.

1944 January 25

A unique expedition was organised by the RAF under Flt. Lt. D. J. Holland to study a total solar eclipse from Freetown, West Africa. Aircraft observed the eclipse from various heights. The pilot of a Gladiator at 25,000 feet checked his course by the shadow cast on a haze layer below.


An enormous explosion in the semidesert region north of Mt. Kenya was reported to have flattened villages over an area 60 miles in diameter. One village "was set on fire by a hail of meteorites".

1946 January 10

The U.S. Army Signal Corps achieved 'the first man-made contact with the Moon' when a radar signal beamed from Belmar New Jersey at the Moon returned 2.4 seconds later. One of the possible implications of this feat, according to the U.S. War Department, was "eventually the launching of 'space ships' from the Earth into cosmic space".

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