Moonsoons. Droughts. Hail stones the size of bowling balls. With all this crazy weather going on, you might think those end-of-the-world conspiracy 2012 kooks could be on to something. Well, stop worrying. Weird, unexplained weather systems have been wreaking havoc on mankind since day one, and most were a lot worse than mere chunks of ice falling from the sky. Don’t believe it? Well, feast your eyes on some of the most mysterious cases of weather ever.
Great Balls of Fire
They’re technically great balls of lightning, but you get the point. Throughout history, there have been numerous accounts of “ball lightning”— fiery spheres of electricity that seem to appear out of nowhere. Also known as a plasma vortex, these lightning balls have even been described as having minds of their own. Imagine if instead of just flying a kite into some lame regular lightning, Ben Franklin had played a badass game of volleyball-(lightning).
According to Science Frontier, one such occurrence was in 1977, when a coast guard officer caught glimpse of a “brilliant, yellow green, transparent ball with a fuzzy outline” the size of a bus that seemed to float down the hillside off the coast of Wales. While occurrences of ball lightning are rare and decisively hard to predict, humankind is still making headway in understanding this strange phenomenon. In 2007, scientists in Berlin actually claimed to have created ball lightning in the lab. Sheiser!
Red Rain in Kerala
Regular rain can totally ruin your day, especially if you don’t have an umbrella, so imagine rain that can stain your clothes pink — not to mention scare the ever-living bejesus out of you. The Red Rains of Kerala was a phenomenon that occurred in the Indian state of (you guessed it) Kerala, between July 25th and September 23rd, 2001. Red is definitely the creepiest possible color rain could be, because it looks like freakin’ blood is descending from the heavens like some sort of biblical apocalypse that will judge the souls of all men.
Explanations for the red rains of Kerala have been diverse, ranging from logical suggestions that the red cells found in the rain were extraterrestrial beings, to complete crackpot theories that claim that the cells are a specific type of algae that is very commonly found in the Kerala region. The Red Rain of Kerala still remains a great mystery in many respects. For example, how did the algae spores come to be injected into the rain drops at high altitude, and at such a specific time, and to such an extent? We may never know the answers to these questions, but one thing is sure: if you’re ever holidaying in Kerala, stay on the safe side and wear red. Or black.
Just in case horrible blood-rain isn’t crappy enough weather for you, fire tornadoes are something everyone wants to avoid. Fire Tornadoes are just like regular tornadoes (which aren’t too friendly), but are made entirely of fire being blown around at really high speeds. They occasionally sprout up after long dry spells and windstorms, and can often lead to intense brush fires and extreme pants-wetting.
Also known as fire devils or firenados, these whirlwinds of destruction can quickly devastate entire cities. In 1923, the great Kanto earthquake in Japan caused one such fire tornado that killed 38,000 people in fifteen minutes. The largest recorded fire tornadoes have reached up to 200 feet high and 10 feet in diameter, and can contain winds of over 100 mph.
The Candy Man Cometh
Not all freaky weather events involve death and destruction. In 1857, Lake County, California was treated to a sweet storm of falling candy.
The small frontier town was pelted with sugary crystals over the course of two nights. While no one could explain the bizarre weather, the locals made the best of the situation, with the women supposedly making syrup from the fallen sugar flakes, and the children eating the delicious crystals until they passed out after some of the most intense sugar crashes of the entire 19th century.
Hail can be pretty cool — you can hear it clinking on a tin roof, you can catch and eat it like a little snowcone, it can damage your annoying neighbor’s shitty car — but when those hailstones are weighing-in at more than 450 pounds, they cease being shift from entertaining and start being, well, death. Megacryometeors are very poorly understood by scientists; so much so that it’s surprising religious nuts haven’t cited them as proof of God’s existence. Oh wait, of course they have. Researchers are not sure of the genesis of these huge chunks of (presumably) space ice due to a number of mysterious factors, including their appearance on cloudless days and nights and the fact that they primarily appear in both the middle of summer and the middle of winter. The largest ever of these icy beasts was a 880-pound (400 kg) monster that fell in Spain 2004. It landed right next to a young girl, whose then-urine-soaked pants immediately froze, giving her serious frostbite.
While many of these strange weather stories seem to be freak occurrences, one such oddity is said to happen on a more regular basis. Lluvia de Peces, or Rain of Fish, is a phenomenon that’s been appearing for more than a century on a yearly basis in Honduras. Residents of Yoro claim that after a large thunderstorm, hundreds of live fish appear on the ground. Every year, the city hosts a festival to celebrate the annual fish-fall, making a feast of the mysterious sealife.
While many scientists believe the event is caused by fish traveling through underground water spouts or being carried through the air by tornadoes, some locals call it the “Father Subirana miracle”. Father Jose Manuel Subirana, who once prayed for three days and three nights for God to provide food for the poor town, is cited by many Hondurans of the religious persuasion as the key explanation to these strange happenings.
Claims of frogs falling from the sky have popped up everywhere from Minnesota to Greece. England appears to be the king of falling frogs, with reports dating back hundreds of years. A more recent frog storm was in 1981 in Southern Greece, where residents of the small town of Naphlion awoke to find frogs apparently raining from the sky. Stranger still, this species of frog was not Greek, but rather endemic to North Africa!
No one seems to be sure how or why these incidents occur; French physicist Andre-Marie Ampere hypothesized the frogs might have been swept up in strong winds. Other, more recent theorists on the matter conjecture that it is impossible that the frogs could have fallen from the sky at all, because of the fact that the trauma they would receive upon impact would be enough to literally explode their squishy little bodies.
Frogs aren’t the only wildlife that have fallen upon the English countryside. According to the London Times, a mass of jellyfish-like creatures rained down on Bath, England in 1871.
London Times, April 24, 1871:
“…upon the 22nd of April, 1871, a storm of glutinous drops neither jellyfish nor masses of frog spawn, but something of a [line missing here in original text. Ed.] railroad station, at Bath. Many soon developed into a wormlike chrysalis, about an inch in length.”
Now that is a creepy as hell; don’t let them anywhere near your ears — they’ll take over your brains! According to the Scientific American, some specimens were taken to a local tavern, “where scientific men, upon observing the creatures, pronounced them to be marine insects, probably caught up in a cloud by a waterspout in the Bristol Channel.”
Falling globs of jello may be nasty, but it’s got nothing on the great brain storm of 1851. On February 15th of that year, Simpson County, North Carolina was besieged by one of the most disgusting weather systems of all time. According to witnesses, pieces of flesh, liver, brains and blood rained down over an area of 30 feet by 250 yards. Maybe they were victims are a terrible aircraft explosion, and, you know, all the debris fell somewhere else. Oh wait, it was 1851; the Wright Brothers weren’t even sperm yet. Blood and guts raining from the sky, huh? And you thought it was bad when your picnic got rained out!
London is famous for its fog, but you probably didn’t know that once upon a time it was fatal. In the late 1800’s, in the midst of the coal-powered industrial revolution, parts of London were engulfed in industrial pollution. In 1880, a thick poisonous fog swept through the city, killing nearly 2000 people. Despite this tragedy, little was done to curb the coal industry’s murderous mist. Thousands more have died over the years, most recently in 1952, when a mix of fog and coal smoke killed another 4,000 (although, some recent estimates put that number at an astonishing 12,000), which finally led to anti-pollution laws being instated by the city of London.
And you thought the twin suns of Tatooine were cool. Triple suns, or “dog suns”, have been spotted all over the globe. So why aren’t we all burning up from the extra heat, or at least bestowed with some sort of Kryptonian-like powers? It’s because the extra suns are just a mirage — the result of sun rays being refracted by hexagonal plate-like ice crystals. But don’t tell the folks in China that. A recent triple sun there led one newspaper to believe they were being invaded by aliens. If that were true, you have to admit, disguising yourself as a sun (something there is definitively one of) isn’t exactly an example of extraordinary intelligence.
Clouds don’t really strike fear into the hearts of… anyone. But imagine you were in prehistoric times (or at least pre-History Channel), and giant, swirling masses suddenly appeared in the sky that seemed to be reaching down like huge ghostly fingers. You’d be one freaked out cave-man.
But while your primitive mind might imagine some massive sky-giant was trying to kill you, what you were probably witnessing were Mammatus clouds. These towering cumulonimbus clouds have often been associated with severe storms or tornadoes, but in reality are no more dangerous than your average rain cloud. They do, however, have the ability to flip you the bird, which is at least mildly insulting.
Pennies From Heaven
Falling frogs and fish may not be your cup of tea, but surely most of us wouldn’t mind a cloud full of money raining down. Although, on second thought, a falling silver dollar could probably leave a nice little dent in the old cranium.
Over the years, there have been several reports of just that. In 1940, coins were seen falling on the Meshchera region of Russia. A few years later, pennies and halfpennies supposedly rained on lucky schoolchildren in Hanham, England. And in 1976, 2,000 marks floated down from the skies over Limburg, West Germany.
Just a few years ago, Ajax, Ontario looked like something from a Homer Simpson fantasy.
The entire lakefront was covered in what looked like giant donuts. While they appeared to be some sort of ice sculptures or an elaborate prank, they were, in fact, naturally rolled snowballs caused by the wind. Apparently, the conditions must be just right for this to occur: the temperature must be around freezing with strong gusts of wind in an open area. Any attempts to eat the donuts were to be ill-fated, and Ajax’s general hospital had to treat a record-breaking 354 separate cases of brainfreeze.
While this strange weather pattern is rare, an incident of falling men was documented by Martha Wash and the late Izora Rhodes of The Weather Girls in their 1982 hit “It’s Raining Men”, and once again by Ginger Spice in her post ‘Girls’ career.
Co-written by Paul Jabara (who also wrote “Last Dance” for Donna Summer) and The Late Show’s Paul Shaffer, “It’s Raining Men” has been heard in every male strip club for the past 20 years, making it one of the longest-lasting weather systems in history. When will this terrifying phenomenon abate? No one knows for sure, and even more terrifyingly, it can strike any time more than three cosmos are consumed in succession.