ONE repeating mystery — the mystery of the local sky.
How, if this earth be a moving earth, could anything sail to, fall to, or in any other way reach this earth, without being smashed into fine particles by the impact?
This earth is supposed to rip space at a rate of about 19 miles a second.
Concepts smash when one tries to visualize such an accomplishment.
Now, three times over, we shall have other aspects of this one mystery of the local sky. First we shall take up data upon seeming relation between a region of this earth that is subject to earthquakes, or so-called earthquakes, and appearances in the sky of this especial region, and the repeating falls of objects and substances from the local sky and nowhere else at the times.
We have records of quakes that occurred at Irkutsk, Siberia, and of stones that fell from the sky to Irkutsk. Upon March 8, 1829, a severe quake, preceded by clattering sounds, was felt at Irkutsk. There was something in the sky. Dr. Erman, the geologist, was in Irkutsk, at the time. In the Report of the British Association, 1854-20, it is said that, in Dr. Erman's opinion, the sounds that preceded the quake were in the sky.(1)
The situation at Comrie, Perthshire, is similar. A stone fell, May 17, 1830, in the "earthquake region" around Comrie. It fell at Perth, 22 miles from Comrie. See Fletcher's List, p. 100.(2) Upon Feb. 15, 1837, a black powder fell upon the Comrie region (Edin. New Phil. Jour., 31-293).(3) Oct. 12, 1839 — a quake at Comrie. According to the Rev. M. Walker, of Comrie, the sky, at the time, was "peculiarly strange and alarming, and appeared as if hung with sackcloth."(4) In Mallet's Catalog (Rept. B.A., 1854-290), it is said that, throughout the month of October, shocks were felt at Comrie, sometimes slight and sometimes severe — "like distant thunder or reports of artillery" — "the noise sometimes [106/107] seemed to be high in the air, and was often heard without any sensible shock."(5) Upon the 23rd of October, occurred the most violent quake in the whole series of phenomena at Comrie. See the Edin. New Phil. Jour., vol. 32.(6) All data in this publication were collected by David Milne. According to the Rev. M. Maxton, of Foulis Manse, ten miles from Comrie, rattling sounds were heard in the sky, preceding the shock that was felt. In vol. 33, page 373, of the Journal, someone who lived seven miles from Comrie is quoted: "In every case, I am inclined to say that the sound proceeded not from underground. The sound seemed high in the air."(7) Someone who lived at Gowrie, forty miles from Comrie, is quoted: "The most general opinion seems to be that the noise accompanying the concussion proceeded from above." See vol. 34, p.87: another impression of explosion overhead and concussion underneath: "The noises heard first seemed to be in the air, and the rumbling sound in the earth."(8) Milne's own conclusion — "It is plain that there are, connected with the earthquake shocks, sounds both in the earth and in the air, which are distinct and separate." If, upon the 23rd of October, 1839, there was a tremendous shock, not of subterranean origin, but from a great explosion in the sky of Comrie, and if this be accepted, there will be concussions somewhere else. The "faults" of dogmas will open; there will be seismic phenomena in science. I have a feeling of a conventional survey of this Scottish sky: vista of a fair, blue, vacant expanse — our suspicions daub the impression with black alarms — but also do we project detonating stimulations into the fair and blue, but unoccupied and meaningless. One can not pass this single occurrence by, considering it only in itself: it is one of a long series of quakes of the earth at Comrie and phenomena in the sky at Comrie. We have stronger evidence than the mere supposition of many persons, in and near Comrie, that, upon Oct. 23, 1839, something had occurred in the sky, because sounds seemed to come from the sky. Milne says that clothes, bleaching on the grass, were entirely covered with black particles which presumably had fallen from the sky. The shocks were felt in November: in November, according to Milne, a powder like soot fell from the sky, upon Comrie and surrounding regions. In his report to the British Association, 1840, Milne, reviewing [107/108] the phenomena from the year 1788, says: "Occasionally there was a fall of fine, black powder."(9)
Jan. 8, 1840 — sounds like cannonading, at Comrie, and a crackling sound in the air, according to some of the residents. Whether they were sounds of quakes of concussions that followed explosions, 247 occurrences, between Oct. 3, 1839, and Feb. 14, 1841, are listed in the Edin. New Phil. Jour., 32-107.(10) It looks like a bombardment, and like most persistent bombardment — from somewhere — and the frequent fall from the sky of the débris of explosions. Feb. 18, 1841 — a shock and a fall of discolored rain at Comrie (Edin. New Phil. Jour., 35-148).(11) See Roper's List of Earthquakes — year after year, and the continuance of this seeming bombardment in one small part of the sky of this earth, though I can find records only of dates and no details.(12) However, I think I have found record of a fall from the sky of débris of an explosion, more substantial than finely powdered soot, at Crieff, which is several miles from Comrie. In the Amer. Jour. Sci., 2-28-275, Prof. Shepard tells a circumstantial story of an object that looked like a lump of slag, or cinders, reported to have fallen at Crieff.(13) Scientists had refused to accept the story, upon the grounds that the substance was not of "true meteoric material." Prof. Shepard went to Crieff and investigated. He gave his opinion that possibly the object did fall from the sky. The story he tells is that, upon the night of April 23, 1855, a young woman, in the home of Sir William Murray, Achterlyre House, Crieff, saw, or thought she saw, a luminous object falling, and picked it up, dropping it, because it was hot, or because she thought it was hot.(14)
For a description, in a letter, presumably from Sir William Murray, or some member of his family, see Year Book of Facts, 1856-273.(15) It is said that about 12 fragments of scorious matter, hot and emitting a sulphurous odor, had fallen.
In Ponton's Earthquakes, p. 118, it is said that, upon the 8th of October, 1857, there had been, in Illinois, an earthquake, preceded by "a luminous appearance, described by some as a meteor and by others as vivid flashes of lightning."(16) Though felt in Illinois, the center of the disturbance was at St. Louis, Mo. One notes the misleading and the obscuring of such word- [108/109] ing: in all contemporaneous accounts there is no such indefiniteness as one description by "some" and another notion by "others." Something exploded terrifically in the sky, at St. Louis, and shook the ground "severely" or "violently," at 4.20 A.M., Oct. 8, 1857. According to Timbs' Year Book of Facts, 1858-271, "a blinding meteoric ball from the heavens" was seen.(17) "A large and brilliant meteor shot across the heavens" (St. Louis Intelligencer, Oct. 8). Of course the supposed earthquake was concussion from an explosion in the sky, but our own interest is in a series that is similar to others that we have recorded. According to the New York Times, Oct 12, a slight shock was said to have been felt four hours before the great concussion, and another three days before.(18) But see Milne's Catalog of Destructive Earthquakes — not a mention of anything that would lead one away from safe and standardized suppositions.(19) See Bull. Seis. Soc. Amer., 3-68 — here the "meteor" is mentioned, but there is no mention of the preceding concussions.(20) Time after time, in a period of about three days, concussions were felt in and around St. Louis. One of these concussions, with its "sound like thunder or the roar of artillery" (New York Times, Oct. 8), was from an explosion in the sky. If the others were of the same origin — how could detonating meteors so repeat in one small local sky, and nowhere else, if this earth be a moving body? If it be said that only by coincidence did a meteor explode over a region where there had been other quakes, here is the question:
How many times can we accept that explanation as to similar series?
In the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 19-144, a correspondent writes that, in Herefordshire, Sept. 24, 1854, upon a day that was "perfectly still, sky cloudless," he had heard sounds like the discharges of heavy artillery, at intervals of about two minutes, continuing several hours.(21) Again the "mystery of the local sky" — if these sounds did come from the sky. We have no data for thinking that they did.
In the London Times, Nov. 9, 1858, a correspondent writes that, in Cardiganshire, Wales, he had, in the autumn of 1855, often heard sounds like the discharges of heavy artillery, two or [109/110] three reports rapidly, and then an interval of perhaps 20 minutes, also with long intervals, sometimes of days and sometimes of weeks, continuing throughout the winter of 1855-56.(22) Upon the 3rd of November, 1858, he had heard the sounds again, repeatedly, and louder than they had been three years before. In the Times, Nov. 12, someone else says that, at Dolgelly, he, too, had heard the "mysterious phenomenon," on the 3rd of November.(23) Someone else — that, upon Oct. 13, he had heard the sounds at Swansea.(24) "The reports, as if of heavy artillery, came from the west, succeeding each other at apparently regular intervals, during the greater part of the afternoon of that day. My impression was that sounds might have proceeded from practicing at Milford, but I ascertained, the following day, that there had been no firing of any kind there." Correspondent to the Times, November 20 — that, with little doubt, the sounds were from artillery practice at Milford.(25) He does not mention the investigation as to the sounds of Oct. 13, but says that there had been cannon-firing, upon Nov. 3rd, at Milford. Times, Dec. 1 — that most of the sounds could be accounted for as sounds of blasting in quarries.(26) Daily News, Nov. 16 — that similar sounds had been heard, in 1848, in New Zealand, and were results of volcanic action.(27) Standard, Nov. 16 — that the "mysterious noise" must have been from Devonport, where a sunken rock had been blown up.(28) So, with at least variety these sounds were explained. But we learn that the series began before October 13. Upon the evening of Sept. 28, in the Dartmoor District, at Crediton, a rumbling sound was heard. It was not supposed to be an earthquake, because no vibration of the ground was felt. It was thought that there had been an explosion of gunpowder. But there had been no such terrestrial explosion. About an hour later another explosive sound was heard. It was like all the other sounds, and in one place was thought to be distant cannonading -- terrestrial cannonading. See Quar. Jour. Geolog. Soc. of London, vol. 15.(29)
Somewhere near Barisal, Bengal, were occurring just such sounds as the sounds of Cardiganshire, which were like the sounds of Melida. In the Proc. Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, Nov. 1870, are published letters upon the Barisal Guns.(30) One writer says that the sounds were probably booming of the surf. Someone else [110/111] points out that the sounds, usually described as "explosive," were heard too far inland to be traced to such origin. A clear, calm day, in December, 1871 — in Nature, 53-197, Mr. G.B. Scott writes that, in Bengal, he had heard "a dull, muffled boom as if of distant cannon" — single detonations, and then two or three in quicker succession.(31)
In the London Times, Jan. 20, 1860, several correspondents write as to a sound "resembling the discharge of a gun high in the air" that was heard near Reading, Berkshire, England, Jan. 17, 1860.(32) See the Times, Jan. 24th.(33) To say that a meteor had exploded would, at present, well enough account for this phenomenon.(34)
Sounds like those that were heard in Herefordshire, Sept. 24, 1854, were heard later. In the
English Mechanic, 100-279, it is said that, upon Nov. 9, 1862, the Rev. T. Webb, the astronomer,
of Hardwicke, fifteen miles west of Hereford, heard sounds that he attributed to gunfire at
Milford Haven, about 85 miles from Hardwicke.(35) Upon Aug. 1, 1865, Mr. Webb saw flashes
upon the horizon, at Hardwicke, and attributed them to gunfire at Tenby, upon occasion of a visit
by Prince Arthur. Tenby, too, is about 85 miles from Hardwicke. There were other phenomena in
a region centering around Hereford and Worcester. Upon Oct. 6, 1863, there was a disturbance
that is now listed as an earthquake; but in the London newspapers so many reports upon this
occurrence state that a great explosion had been thought to occur, and that the quake was
supposed to be an earthquake of subterranean origin only after no terrestrial explosion could be
heard of, that the phenomenon is of questionable origin. There was a similar concussion in about
the same region, Oct. 30, 1868. Again the shock was widely attributed to a great explosion,
perhaps in London, and again was supposed to have been an earthquake when no terrestrial
explosion could be heard of.
Arcana of Science, 1829-196:(36)
That, near Mhow, India, Feb. 27, 1827, fell a stone "perfectly similar" to the stone that fell near
Allahabad, in 1802, and a stone that fell near Mooradabad, in 1808. These towns are in the
Northwestern Provinces of India.
I have looked at specimens of these stones, and in my view they are similar. They are of brownish rock, streaked and spotted with a darker brown. A stone that fell at Chandakopur, in the same general region, June 6, 1838, is like them.(37) All are as much alike as "erratics" that, because they are alike, geologists ascribe to the same derivation, stationary relatively to the places in which they are found.
It seems acceptable that, upon July 15 and 17, 1822, and then upon a later date, unknown seeds fell from the sky to this earth.(38) If these seeds did come from some other world, there is another mystery as well as that of repetition in a local sky of this earth. How could a volume of seeds remain in one aggregation; how could the seeds be otherwise than scattered from Norway to Patagonia, if they met in space this earth, and if this earth be rushing through space at a rate of 19 miles a second? It may be that the seeds of 1822 fell again. According to Kaemtz (Meteorology, p. 465) yellowish brown corpuscles, some round, a few cylindrical, were found upon the ground, June, 1830, near Griesau, Silesia.(39) Kaemtz says that they were tubercules from roots of a well-known Silesian plant — stalk of the plant dries up; heavy rain raises these tubercules to the ground — persons of a low order of mentality think that the things had fallen from the sky. Upon the night of March 24-25, 1852, a great quantity of seeds did fall from the sky, in Prussia, in Heinsberg, Erkelenz, and Juliers, according to M. Schwann, of the University of Liége, in a communication to the Belgian Academy of Science (La Belgique Horticole, 2-319).(40)
In Comptes Rendus, 5-549, is Dr. Wartmann's account of water that fell from the sky, at Geneva.(41) At nine o'clock, morning of Aug. 9, 1837, there were clouds upon the horizon, but the zenith was clear. It is not remarkable that a little rain should fall now and then from a clear sky: we shall see wherein this account is remarkable. Large drops of warm water fell in such abundance that people were driven to shelter. The fall continued several minutes and then stopped. But then, several times during an hour, more of this warm water fell from the sky. Year Book of Facts, 1839-262 — that upon May 31, 1838, lukewarm water in large drops fell from the sky, at Geneva.(42) Comptes Rendus, [112/113] 15-290 — no wind and not a cloud in the sky — at 10 o'clock, morning of May 11, 1842, warm water fell from the sky at Geneva, for about six minutes; five hours later, still no wind and no clouds, again fell warm water, in large drops; falling intermittently for several minutes.(43)
In Comptes Rendus, 85-681, is noted a succession of falls of stones in Russia: June 12, 1863, at Buschof, Courland; Aug. 8, 1863, at Pillitsfer, Livonia; April 12, 1864, at Nerft, Courland.(44) Also — see Fletcher's List — a stone that fell at Dolgovdi, Volhynia, Russia, June 26, 1864.(45) I have looked at specimens of all four of these stones, and have found them all very much alike, but not of uncommon meteoric material: all gray stones, but Pillitsfer is darker than the others, and in a polished specimen of Nerft, brownish specks are visible.
In the Birmingham Daily Post, June 14, 1858, Dr. C. Mansfield Ingleby, a meteorologist, writes: "During the storm on Saturday (12th) morning, Birmingham was visited by a shower of aerolites. Many hundreds of thousands must have fallen, some of the streets being strewn with them."(46) Someone else writes than many pounds of the stones had been gathered from awnings, and that they had damaged greenhouses, in the suburbs.(47) In the Post, of the 15th, someone else writes that, according to his microscopic examinations, the supposed aerolites were only bits of the Rowley ragstone, with which Birmingham was paved, which had been washed loose by the rain.(48) It is not often that sentiment is brought into meteorology, but in the Report of the British Association, 1864-37, Dr. Phipson explains the occurrence meteorologically, and with an unconscious tenderness.(49) He says that the stones did fall from the sky, but that they had been carried in a whirlwind from Rowley, some miles from Birmingham. So we are to sentimentalize over the stones in Rowley that had been torn, by unfeeling paviers, from their companions of geologic ages, and exiled to the pavements of Birmingham, and then some of these little bereft companions, rising in a whirlwind and travelling, unerringly, if not miraculously, to rejoin the exiles. More dark companions. It is said that they were little black stones.
They fell again from the sky, two years later. In La Science Pour Tous, June 19, 1860, it is said that, according to the Wolver- [113/114] hampton Advertiser, a great number of little black stones had fallen, in a violent storm, at Wolverhampton.(50) According to all records findable by me no such stones have ever fallen anywhere in Great Britain, except at Birmingham and Wolverhampton, which is 13 miles from Birmingham.
Eight years after the second occurrence, they fell again. English Mechanic, July 31, 1868 — that stones "similar to, if not identical with the well-known Rowley ragstones" had fallen in Birmingham, having probably been carried from Rowley, in a whirlwind.(51)
We were pleased with Dr. Phipson's story, but to tell of more of the little dark companions rising in a whirlwind and going unerringly from Rowley to rejoin exiles in Birmingham is overdoing. That's not sentiment: that's mawkishness.
In the Birmingham Daily Post, May 30, 1868, is published a letter from Thomas Plant, a writer and lecturer upon meteorological subjects. Mr. Plant says, I think, that for one hour, morning of May 29, 1868, stones fell, in Birmingham, from the sky. His words may be interpretable in some other way, but it does not matter: the repeating falls are indication enough of what we're trying to find out — "From nine to ten, meteoric stones fell in immense quantities in various parts of town." "They resembled, in shape, broken pieces of Rowley ragstone...in every respect they were like the stones that fell in 1858."(52) In the Post, June 1, Mr. Plant says that the stones of 1858 did fall from the sky, and were not fragments washed out of the pavement by rain, because many pounds of them had been gathered from a platform that was 20 feet above the ground.
It may be that for days before and after May 29, 1868, occasional stones fell from some unknown
region stationary above Birmingham. In the Post, June 2, a correspondent writes that, upon the
first of June, his niece, while walking in a field, was struck by a stone that injured her hand
severely. He thinks that the stone had been thrown by some unknown person. In the Post, June 4,
someone else writes that his wife, while walking down a lane, upon May 24th, had been cut on
the head by a stone. He attributes this injury to stone-throwing by boys, but does not say that
anyone had been seen to throw the stone.
Symons' Met. Mag., 4-137:(53)
That, according to the Birmingham Gazette, a great number of small, black stones had been
found in the streets of Wolverhampton, May 25, 1869, after a severe storm. It is said that the
stones were precisely like those that had fallen in Birmingham, the year before, and resembled
Rowley ragstone outwardly, but had a different appearance when broken.