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Mysteries

The strange and unexplained phenomenon of raining stones

April Holloway The Epoch Times

Throughout history, there have been numerous recorded instances of strange objects falling from the sky – fish, frogs, candy, jellyfish, beans, nuts, seeds, and all manner of bizarre and unlikely objects. A popular theory explains these events as being caused by strong winds that whisk things up from the ground or water and hurl them towards an unsuspecting town many miles away. But can this theory also explain showers of heavy stones that have been known to damage houses and even kill people and livestock?

A Long History of Raining Objects

One of the first recorded instances of “raining” objects comes from the writings of Roman philosopher and naturalist Pliny the Elder, who documented storms of frogs and fish in the 1st century A.D. in what is now Italy.

In the 3rd century A.D., ancient Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus wrote in his work The Deipnosophists (Book VIII): “In Paeonia and Dardania it has, they say, before now rained frogs; and so great has been the number of these frogs that the houses and the roads have been full of them; and at first, for some days, the inhabitants, endeavoring to kill them, and shutting up their houses, endured the pest; but when they did no good, but found that all their vessels were filled with them, and the frogs were found to be boiled up and roasted with everything they ate, and when besides all this, they could not make use of any water, nor put their feet on the ground for the heaps of frogs that were everywhere, and were annoyed also by the smell of those that died, they fled the country.”

1555 engraving of raining fish

Since then, numerous other unusual instances have been documented, including a storm in Italy in 1840 that deposited thousands of partially germinated Judas Tree seeds native to Central Africa; a dusting of sugar crystals in 1857 in Lake County, Calif.; a rain of hazelnuts over Dublin, Ireland, in 1867; live pond mussels in Paderborn, Germany, in 1892; and jellyfish in Bath, England, in 1894.

Perhaps one of the most exciting “rains” to occur was the shower of 16th-century coins that fell from the sky on June 16, 1940, in the Russian village of Meschera. Archaeologists hypothesized that a strong wind swept up a buried trove that had been exposed by soil erosion, before dropping it back down.

One of the first scientists to address the strange phenomena of raining objects was E.W. Gudger, an ichthyologist at the American Museum of Natural History. Gudger published a paper in the journal Natural History, titled “Rains of Fishes,” in the early 20th century in which he suggested four possible explanations for showers of marine species.

First, he suggested that certain “out-of-place” animal species may simply be on their migration. Secondly, that fish or other marine species were left stranded on land after overflow from ponds or streams. Third, that estivating fish, awakened by heavy rains, had burrowed to the surface. And fourth, that the fish had been whisked out of the ocean or lake by waterspouts or tornadoes and dumped to the ground many miles away.

Waterspouts have been mentioned as one of the explanations for raining objects

The latter theory has received the most support. Jerry Dennis writes in his book It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes: Four Seasons of Natural Phenomena and Oddities of the Sky, that theoretical calculations suggest that “golf ball-sized hail requires an updraft of more than 100 miles per hour, which would be more than powerful enough to loft small fish high into a thundercloud.”

However, some occurrences of falling objects cannot as easily be explained by this theory. The phenomena of raining stones, for example, has been known to last for several days or even weeks, and with rocks too large to be carried long distances in the wind.
Raining StonesLike the phenomena of raining animals, raining stones have been documented throughout history. One of the earliest accounts is from 1557, when Conrad Lycosthenes’s Chronicles of Prodigies, described a rain of stones bringing death to people and livestock.

During the Middle Ages, occurrences of stones falling from the sky were attributed to creatures of supernatural origin or even the devil. In 1690, folklorist Robert Kirk wrote in his book The Secret Commonwealth that falling stones were caused by subterranean inhabitants called “invisible wights” – similar to goblins or brownies – which would hurl the stones around, but never with the intention to hurt anyone. In 1698, stones fell from the sky in New Hampshire, which was recorded in a pamphlet titled Lithobolia, or the Stone-Throwing Devil.

An illustration of a rain of stones from “Don Quixote.”

One of the most well-known cases of falling stones occurred in Harrisonville, Ohio, in Oct. 1901. The Buffalo Express, a small local newspaper, reported that on Oct. 13, “a small boulder came crashing through the window of Zach Dye’s house.” Nobody was seen in the vicinity. But this was just the beginning. Within a few days, the whole town was supposedly afflicted by stones and boulders falling from a clear sky. Perplexed as to where the stones were coming from, the townspeople rounded up all the men and boys of Harrisonville to rule out the phenomenon being caused by a gang of trouble-makers (it was assumed that females would not be capable of such as act). The stones continue to fall. Several days later, the rain of stones stopped just as suddenly as it had started.

Since this event, there have been many other documented occasions of stones falling from the sky, including in Sumatra (1903), Belgium (1913), France (1921), Australia (repeatedly between 1946 and 1962), New Zealand (1963), New York (1973), and Arizona (1983).

Explanations for Raining Stones

Scientists have admitted that they really do not have a definitive answer for the strange phenomena of raining stones. Over the years, many theories have been proposed from poltergeist activity to supernatural beings, gangs of stone-throwers, volcanoes, meteorites, tornadoes, and even divine retribution, as seen in the reference (Joshua 10:11): “the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them until Azekah, and they died.”

On Nov. 23, 2013, thousands of small rocks fell from the sky over Sicily, Italy, which began after Mount Etna, an active volcano, spewed out pumice stones, dust, and ash into the sky. Cars became covered in small, sharp, black rocks. This certainly explains one instance of falling stones. However, many recorded events do not match this description.

Another popular explanation is tornadoes or tornado-like conditions. However, rocks have been reported to fall even in fine weather and in countries that do not experience tornadoes. Furthermore, tornadoes are only capable of scooping up debris and shooting it outwards on ballistic trajectories. They do not cause debris to fall downwards from the sky far from the point of origin.

Some experts have argued that raining stones may be caused by a meteorite entering Earth’s atmosphere and fragmenting into thousands of smaller stones. However, such an event is usually accompanied by a sonic boom, which has not been documented in any of the reported cases, and this theory would have a hard time accounting for events that have lasted days or even weeks.

As with many unusual and unexplained phenomena, scientists and academics have been reluctant to examine the subject in any rigorous manner. Presumably, examining the nature of the rocks and whether they are local to the area in which they fall or from further afield, including from outerspace, could help to at least shed some light on mystery. Until then, we are left with mere speculations as to what causes this bizarre phenomena.

April Holloway is an editor and writer with Ancient-Origins. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree and currently works as a researcher.

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Mysteries

Murder Mysterious: What Happened at the Hinterkaife Farm?

This story, which took place on April 4, 1922, on the Hinterkaifike farm, located between Ingolstadt and Schrobenhausen in Bavaria, still excites the minds of lawyers and journalists. Then they found the bodies of the owner of the farm and his wife, their daughter and her two children, a maid who had recently come to them to work …

Everyone in the village knew about the Gruber. They were a wealthy family, but with a bad reputation. The father of the family, Andreas Gruber, was a cruel and rude man, so the workers on the farm did not stay long. Although everyone wanted money, few were willing to endure Andreas’ harsh temper. Cecilia Gruber, his wife, used to be the owner of Hinterkaifeke – she inherited the farm from her husband. From him, she left two children, Martin and Cecilia. Soon the couple had a daughter, Victoria. She was not the only child, but the only one survived to adulthood – the rest of the children died in the absence of proper care. 

Victoria grew up with Cecilia the younger as a sister. She was a quiet girl who sang in the church choir. Andreas did not deny himself the pleasure of making fun of both girls, and when Victoria turned 16, he forced her to enter into a relationship with him. Nobody knew about this, because the family lived as hermits, and the locals preferred not to pry into other people’s affairs. 

Cecilia the younger got married and left. At the age of 27, Victoria also found herself a husband, Karl Gabriel. According to rumors, he married solely for the sake of a share of the land, but upon learning of the incestuous relationship between his wife and father-in-law, he dropped everything and went to the front. A month later, Victoria gave birth to a daughter, Cecilia. 

In the end, Victoria broke down and told about incest in confession. Gruber was sentenced to a year of hard labor, and she herself was imprisoned for a month. However, when Andreas returned, everything was resumed. Once their neighbor Lorenz Schlittenbauer wooed Victoria – his wife died then, he had sex with Victoria several times in the barn and must have decided that his farm still needs a mistress, besides, he is a respected non-poor man. But Andreas refused to marry his daughter, claiming that he “fondled her himself.” When it turned out that Victoria was pregnant, she persuaded Lorenz to recognize the child as her own, but she never got married, and Gruber was named his guardian. So Lorenz was forced to pay child support until the child came of age, not even being sure that he was from him.

The baby was named Joseph. Unfortunately, he was unwell, grew poorly and was often ill. For the villagers, this served as a signal that Joseph was born as a result of an unnatural relationship between Victoria and her father.

Footprints and ghosts

Shortly before the murder, Victoria was seized with anxiety. She repeated that she felt that the farm was being watched. She saw the silhouette of a man, but could not find out who it was. Andreas also noticed oddities: footprints in the snow around the house, rustling in the attic (and when he got up, no one was there), flashing torches … Once he found a Munich newspaper that no one in the family subscribed to. He also lost his keys.

On March 31, a couple of days before the murder, the maid Maria arrived at the farm. The previous one asked for a calculation when she began to suspect that a ghost was in charge of the house.

Murder

For several days, nothing was heard about the Gruber, but life was in full swing on the farm: smoke poured from the chimney, sounds were heard, someone walked … But after several people with whom Andreas had appointments, they could not getting inside, their neighbor Lorenz became worried and called the police. 

The bodies of all six were found in a house that was in perfect order. Little Joseph was killed in his cradle, Maria – in her bed, the rest were piled up in a heap by the barn and obviously not the first day dead. All residents of the farm were killed in one way – hitting the head with a hoe. At the same time, nothing of the valuable things and money, which was abundant on the farm, was not lost. Cynologists with dogs were able to take the trail of the criminal, but lost him at the edge of the forest.

The police interviewed about a hundred suspects, chief among whom was a neighbor of the Lorenz farm, whom Victoria had deceived and, perhaps, her ex-husband, who allegedly died at the front, could in fact be alive. In 2007, the students of the police academy, as a practice, re-investigated the case, found a new suspect, but out of respect for their relatives, they did not disclose their name.

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Mysteries

A dead star in our galaxy has sent a new radio signal

Magnetar SGR 1935 + 2154, which emitted the first known rapid radio burst from inside the Milky Way in April, flared again, giving astronomers another chance to unravel the cosmic mystery.

The little dead star that sent the signal earlier this year did it again.

On October 8, 2020, the CHIME / FRB collaboration discovered SGR 1935 + 2154 emitting three millisecond radio bursts in three seconds. Following the CHIME / FRB detection, the FAST radio telescope detected something else – pulsed radio emission corresponding to the rotation period of the magnetar.

It is very interesting to see SGR 1935 + 2154 again, and I am optimistic that if we study these bursts more closely, it will help us better understand the potential relationship between magnetars and fast radio bursts, “says astronomer Deborah Goode of the University of Britain Colombia in Canada and a member of CHIME / FRB.

Until April of this year, fast radio bursts (FRBs) were ever recorded only from outside the galaxy, usually from sources millions of light years away. The first was discovered in 2007, and since then astronomers have been trying to figure out what causes them.

As the name suggests, FRBs are bursts of extremely powerful radio waves found in the sky, some of which release more energy than hundreds of millions of suns. They only last a millisecond.

Since most sources of fast radio bursts seem to flare up once and no repetition is detected, they are highly unpredictable. In addition, the ones we detect usually come so far that our telescopes cannot distinguish individual stars. Both of these characteristics make it difficult to track the FRB to either the exact source galaxy or a known cause.

But SGR 1935 + 2154 is only 30,000 light-years away. On April 28, 2020, it spat out a massive millisecond pulse that has since been dubbed FRB 200428 under the fast radio transmission naming convention.

Once the signal strength was adjusted for distance, FRB 200428 was not as powerful as the extragalactic fast radio bursts, but everything else was in line with the profile.

“If the same signal came from a nearby galaxy, such as one of the closest typical FRB galaxies, it would look like an FRB to us,” said astronomer Srinivas Kulkarni of the California Institute of Technology. “We’ve never seen anything like it before.”

We don’t know much about the three new bursts yet. Since scientists are still working on the data, it is possible that some of the early findings could change, Goode said. But now we can say that they are both similar and not similar to FRB 200428.

They are a little less powerful again, but they are all still incredibly strong, and they all lasted only milliseconds.

“Although less bright than those detected earlier this year, they are still very bright flares that we would see if they were extragalactic,” Goode added.

“One of the more interesting aspects of this discovery is that our three bursts appear to have occurred during the same rotation period. The magnetar is known to rotate every ~ 3.24 seconds, but our first and second bursts were separated by 0.954 seconds, and the second and third were separated by 1.949 seconds. This is a bit unusual, and I think we will look at it later. “

This could reveal something new and useful about the behavior of magnetars, because – let’s face it – they’re pretty weird.

Magnetars, of which only 24 have been confirmed to date, are neutron stars; it is the collapsed core of a dead star, not massive enough to turn into a black hole. Neutron stars are small and dense, about 20 kilometers in diameter, with a maximum mass of about two Suns. But magnetars add something else to this: a stunningly powerful magnetic field.

These stunning fields are about a quadrillion times more powerful than Earth’s magnetic field and a thousand times more powerful than a normal neutron star. And we still do not fully understand how they came to this.

But we know that magnetars have periods of activity. As gravity tries to hold the star together – an internal force – the magnetic field pulling outward is so powerful that it distorts the star’s shape. This results in a constant voltage that sometimes causes giant starquakes and giant magnetic flares. SGR 1935 + 2154 is undergoing such activity, which suggests a link between magnetar attacks and at least some FRBs.

Obviously, astronomers have found that the source of the first intragalactic FRBs is of great interest. When CHIME / FRB reported their discovery, other astronomers decided to look at the star, including a team led by Zhu Weiwei of the National Astronomical Observatory of China, which had access to FAST, the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world.

And they discovered something interesting, which was also reported on the astronomer’s Telegram – pulsed radio emission. These radio pulses were nowhere near as strong as the bursts, but they are extremely rare: if confirmed, SGR 1935 + 2154 will only be the sixth pulsed radio frequency magnetar. And the pulse period turned out to be equal to 3.24781 seconds – almost exactly the rotation period of the star.

This is curious, because until now astronomers have not been able to find a connection between magnetars and radio pulsars. Pulsars are another type of neutron star; they have a more normal magnetic field, but they pulsate with radio waves as they spin, and astronomers have long tried to figure out how the two types of stars are related.

Earlier this year, Australian astronomers identified a magnetar that behaved like a radio pulsar – a possible “missing link” between the two and evidence that at least some magnetars could evolve into pulsars. SGR 1935 + 2154 might be another piece of the puzzle.

“Based on these results and the increasing burst activity, we hypothesize that the magnetar may be in the process of transforming into an active radio pulsar,” Weiwei’s team wrote.

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Mysteries

Starlite: a mysterious material whose recipe was taken to the grave

Enthusiasts continue to struggle with the riddle of the unique material, the creator of which died without revealing the secret recipe.

At the dawn of the 1990s, reports began to appear in the world media about the creation of a new plastic material that could withstand heating to incredible temperatures – up to those that develop during a fire or on the shell of a spacecraft when passing through the atmosphere. Such statements were very embarrassing for scientists also because the author of the find was a man without a diploma or any formal education at all – the British hairdresser Maurice Ward.

Starlite – this name was invented by the granddaughter of Maurice Ward – was repeatedly tested by NASA as a possible heat insulator, the military and large corporations looked closely at it. The author did not refuse to provide samples for research, but he kept the recipe in complete secret, not sharing it with anyone – until 2011, when Maurice died, taking this secret with him. Perhaps thanks to this twist, the plot did not disappear into oblivion along with Petrik filters and other “miracle inventions”, and the history of the mysterious Starlite continues to this day.

According to Ward himself (by the way, his personal blog and YouTube channel survived on the Internet), he was prompted to search for fire-resistant material by a television report, from which he learned that many victims of fires die from poisoning by the caustic smoke of burning plastic. Previously, the hairdresser dabbled in the search for his own shampoo recipes, but around 1986 he completely devoted himself to a new venture. Three years later, the composition was found – and, of course, it turned out to be incredibly simple and included the most common store ingredients.

It was not easy for the “genius upstart” to break through, and over the next few years he pounded the thresholds of laboratories and companies without any benefit. Fate smiled only in 1993, when a message about Starlite was published in the authoritative International Defense Review. It referred to “amazing results” from some of the independent experts who tested Starlite. According to some reports, the material did not burn at temperatures up to 10,000 ° C and was not supplied even by a high-power laser.

Moreover, in the same 1993, the incredible thermal insulation properties of Starlite were demonstrated to the public. On the Air Force show Tomorrow’s World, a chicken egg coated with a thin layer of this material was sprayed with the heat of a gas burner for several minutes, after which it was shown that it remained raw inside. It would seem that the deed is done: it remains to find out which of the industrial giants will be interested in the invention and from whom Ward will be able to get legitimate millions, if not billions of dollars for the miracle recipe. The prospects for its use in engineering and construction were discussed. In 1994, the material was tested at Boeing as an alternative to space shuttle thermal insulation ceramics.

It is worth saying that Maurice Ward has always shown a certain paranoia about the security of his invention. As far as is known, he refused any projects in which he could not maintain a controlling 51 percent. The inventor personally monitored all samples that were submitted for testing, making sure that no one had the opportunity to reconstruct the Starlite composition. Ward also did not file a patent so as not to reveal the secret formula and repeatedly announced attempts to steal. The story that took place in the late 1990s is characteristic. It is known that at this time the inventor found partners from Canada and organized a startup Starlite Safety Solutions, which presented the results of material tests to investors. However, according to those same partners, Maurice Ward turned out to be completely incapable of negotiating – “the more he was offered, the more he asked for”

On the one hand, Ward is understandable. If the author’s statements are accurate, the find could be worth billions, which no corporation likes to share. On the other hand, Starlite could well change the modern world and save many lives, and perhaps doing so was not entirely ethical. Again, if all statements about the properties of this material are true. And this is its main mystery.

Indeed, despite all the doubts of many observers, there is enough authoritative evidence in favor of Starlite every now and then. Thus, Joe Kissell, who wrote about him in 2009, received a letter from Pamela Pohling-Brown, who authored the same article in the International Defense Review. She in every possible way confirmed the reliability of the results presented then and even named the expert who conducted the testing. 

“I’m afraid the topic is somehow classified,” summed up Pauline-Brown. By the way, Ward’s former partners from Canada hinted at the same. It turns out that there is still something to hide?

Maurice Ward has repeatedly stated that, fearing theft, he never even wrote down the recipe on paper, and keeps it in his head – fortunately, it is quite simple. According to him, the secret has been entrusted to only a few closest family members – however, they have not shown much activity since the death of the inventor in 2011. In 2013, two of Ward’s daughters announced the sale of a “certain version” of Starlite to the American company Thermashield, but the third said that she had kept the “best” formula. And since then nothing has been heard about Thermashield, and the company’s website has not been revoked.

But there are plenty of hypotheses and speculations about the composition of Starlite. They find the main clues all in the same publication by Pamela Pauline-Brown, where the following was said.

 “It consists of a set of organic polymers and copolymers with organic and inorganic additives, including borates, small amounts of ceramics and other barrier ingredients, for a total of 21. Perhaps uniquely, this thermally and explosion-proof material contains up to 90 percent organic matter.”

Armed with this data, yet another “genius self-taught” reproduced the recipe. Canadian Troy Hurtubise, known for developing the bear-repelling suit – and for testing inventions on himself – said he found the same or a similar recipe and demonstrated it under the name Firepaste. However, in 2014 he died in a car accident – as if the material really surrounds the halo of special operations.

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