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The Book of the Damned
By Charles Fort (1874-1932)
Noded by panamaus
ONE of the most extraordinary phenomena, or alleged phenomena, of psychic research, or alleged research — if in quasi-existence there never has been real research, but only approximations to research that merge away, or that are continuous with, prejudice and convenience —
It's attributed to poltergeists. They're mischievous spirits.
Poltergeists do not assimilate with our own present quasi-system, which is an attempt to correlate denied or disregarded data as phenomena of extra-telluric forces, expressed in physical terms. Therefore I regard poltergeists as evil or false or discordant or absurd — names that we give to various degrees or aspects of the unassimilable, or that which resists attempts to organize, harmonize, systematize, or, in short, to positivize — names that we give to our recognition of the negative state. I don't care to deny poltergeists, because I suspect that later, when we're more enlightened, or when we widen the range of our credulities, or take on more of that increase of ignorance that is called knowledge, poltergeists may become assimilable. Then they'll be as reasonable as trees. By reasonableness I mean that which assimilates with a dominant force, or system, or a major body of thought — which is, itself, of course, hypnosis and delusion — developing, however, in our acceptance, to higher and higher approximations to realness. The poltergeists are now evil or absurd to me, proportionately to their present unassimilableness, compounded, however, with the factor of their possible future assimilableness.
We lug in the poltergeists, because some of our own data, or alleged data, merge away indistinguishably with data, or alleged data, of them:
Instances of stones that have been thrown, or that have fallen, upon a small area, from an unseen and undetectable source.
London Times, April 27, 1872:
"From 4 o'clock, Thursday afternoon until half-past eleven, Thursday night, the houses, 56 and 58 Reverdy Road, Bermondsey, were assailed with stones and other missiles coming from an unseen quarter. Two children were injured, every window was broken, and several articles of furniture were destroyed. Although there was a strong body of policemen scattered in the neighbourhood, they could not trace the direction whence the stones were thrown."
"Other missiles" make a complication here. But if the expression means tin cans and old shoes, and if we accept that the direction could not be traced because it never occurred to anyone to look upward — why we've lost a good deal of our provincialism by this time.
London Times, Sept. 16, 1841:
That, in the home of Mrs. Charton, at Sutton Courthouse, Sutton Lane, Chiswick, windows had been broken "by some unseen agent." Every attempt to detect the perpetrator failed. The mansion was detached and surrounded by high walls. No other building was near it.
The police were called. Two constables, assisted by members of the household, guarded the house, but the windows continued to be broken "both in front and behind the house."
Or the floating islands that are often stationary in the Super-Sargasso Sea; and atmospheric disturbances that sometimes affect them, and bring things down within small areas, upon this earth, from temporarily stationary sources.
Super-Sargasso Sea and the beaches of its floating islands from which I think, or at least accept, pebbles have fallen:
Wolverhampton, England, June, 1860 — violent storm — fall of so many little black pebbles that they were cleared away by shoveling (La Sci. Pour Tous, 5-264); great number of small black stones that fell at Birmingham, England, Aug., 1858 — violent storm — said to be similar to some basalt a few leagues from Birmingham (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1864-37); pebbles described as "common water-worn pebbles" that fell at Palestine, Texas, July 6, 1888 — "of a formation not found near Palestine" (W. H. Perry, Sergeant, Signal Corps, Monthly Weather Review, July, 1888); round, smooth pebbles at Kandahor, 1834 (Am. J. Sci., 1-26-161); "a number of stones of peculiar formation and shapes, uncommon in this neighborhood fell in a tornado at Hillsboro, Ill., May 18, 1883." (Monthly Weather Review, May, 1883.)
Pebbles from aerial beaches and terrestrial pebbles as products of whirlwinds, so merge in these instances that, though it's interesting to hear of things of peculiar shape that have fallen from the sky, it seems best to pay little attention here, and to find phenomena of the Super-Sargasso Sea remote from the merger:
To this requirement we have three adaptations:
Pebbles that fell where no whirlwind to which to attribute them could be learned of;
Pebbles which fell in hail so large that incredibly could that hail have been formed in this earth's atmosphere;
Pebbles which fell and were, long afterward, followed by more pebbles, as if from some aerial, stationary source, in the same place.
In September, 1898, there was a story in a New York newspaper, of lightning — or an appearance of luminosity? — in Jamaica — something had struck a tree: near the tree were found some small pebbles. It was said that the pebbles had fallen from the sky, with the lightning. But the insult to orthodoxy was that they were not angular fragments such as might have been broken from a stony meteorite: that they were "water-worn pebbles."
In the geographical vagueness of a mainland, the explanation "up from one place and down in another" is always good, and is never overworked, until the instances are massed as they are in this book: but, upon this occasion, in the relatively small area of Jamaica, there was no whirlwind findable — however "there in the first place" bobs up.
Monthly Weather Review, Aug., 1898-363:
That the government meteorologist had investigated: had reported that a tree had been struck by lightning, and that small water-worn pebbles had been found near the tree: but that similar pebbles could be found all over Jamaica.
Monthly Weather Review, Sept., 1915-446:
Prof. Fassig gives an account of a fall of hail that occurred in Maryland, June 22, 1915: hailstones the size of baseballs "not at all uncommon."
"An interesting, but unconfirmed, account stated that small pebbles were found at the center of some of the larger hail gathered at Annapolis. The young man who related the story offered to produce the pebbles, but has not done so."
"Since writing this, the author states he has received some of the pebbles."
When a young man "produces" pebbles, that's as convincing as anything else I've ever heard of, though no more convincing than, if having told of ham sandwiches falling from the sky, he should "produce" ham sandwiches. If this "reluctance" be admitted by us, we correlate it with a datum reported by a Weather Bureau observer, signifying that, whether the pebbles had been somewhere aloft a long time or not, some of the hailstones that fell with them, had been. The datum is that some of these hailstones were composed of from twenty to twenty-five layers alternately of clear ice and snow-ice. In orthodox terms I argue that a fair-sized hailstone falls from the clouds with velocity sufficient to warm it so that it would not take on even one layer of ice. To put twenty layers of ice, I conceive of something that had not fallen at all, but had rolled somewhere, at a leisurely rate, for a long time.
We now have a commonplace datum that is familiar in two respects:
Little, symmetric objects of metal that fell at Sterlitamak, Orenburg, Russia, Sept., 1824 (Phil. Mag., 4-8-463).
A second fall of these objects, at Orenburg, Russia, Jan. 25, 1825 (Quar. Jour. Roy. Inst., 1828-1-447).
I now think of the disk of Tarbes, but when first I came upon these data I was impressed only with recurrence, because the objects of Orenburg were described as crystals of pyrites, or sulphate of iron. I had no notion of metallic objects that might have been shaped or molded by means other than crystallization, until I came to Arago's account of these occurrences (Œuvres, 11-644). Here the analysis gives 70 per cent red oxide of iron, and sulphur and loss by ignition 5 per cent. It seems to me acceptable that iron with considerably less than 5 per cent. sulphur in it is not iron pyrites — then little, rusty iron objects, shaped by some other means, have fallen, four months apart, at the same place. M. Arago expresses astonishment at this phenomenon of recurrence so familiar to us.
Altogether, I find opening before us, vistas of heresies to which I, for one, must shut my eyes. I have always been in sympathy with the dogmatists and exclusionists: that is plain in our opening lines: that to seem to be is falsely and arbitrarily and dogmatically to exclude. It is only that exclusionists who are good in the nineteenth century are evil in the twentieth century. Constantly we feel a merging away into infinitude; but that this book shall approximate to form, or that our data shall approximate to organization, or that we shall approximate to intelligibility, we have to call ourselves back constantly from wandering off into infinitude. The thing that we do, however, is to make our own outline, or the difference between what we include and what we exclude, vague.
The crux here, and the limit beyond which we may not go — very much — is:
Acceptance that there is a region that we call the Super-Sargasso Sea — not yet fully accepted, but a provisional position that has received a great deal of support —
But is it a part of this earth, and does it revolve with and over this earth —
Or does it flatly overlie this earth, not revolving with and over this earth —
That this earth does not revolve, and is not round, or roundish, at all, but is continuous with the rest of its system, so that, if one could break away from the traditions of the geographers, one might walk and walk, and come to Mars, and then find Mars continuous with Jupiter?
I suppose some day such queries will sound absurd — the thing will be so obvious —
Because it is very difficult for me to conceive of little metallic objects hanging precisely over a small town in Russia, for four months, if revolving, unattached, with a revolving earth —
It may be that something aimed at that town, and then later took another shot.
These are speculations that seem to me to be evil relatively to these early years in the twentieth century —
Just now, I accept that this earth is — not round, of course: that is very old-fashioned — but roundish, or, at least, that it has what is called form of its own, and does revolve upon its axis, and in an orbit around the sun. I only accept these old traditional notions —
And that above it are regions of suspension that revolve with it: from which objects fall, by disturbances of various kinds, and then, later, fall again, in the same place:
Monthly Weather Review, May, 1884-134:
Report from the Signal Service observer, at Bismarck, Dakota:
That, at 9 o'clock, in the evening of May 22, 1884, sharp sounds were heard throughout the city, caused by the fall of flinty stones striking against windows.
Fifteen hours later another fall of flinty stones occurred at Bismarck.
There is no report of stones having fallen anywhere else.
This is a thing of the ultra-damned. All Editors of scientific publications read the Monthly Weather Review and frequently copy from it. The noise made by the stones of Bismarck, rattling against those windows, may be in a language that aviators will some day interpret: but it was a noise entirely surrounded by silences. Of this ultra-damned thing, there is no mention, findable by me, in any other publication.
The size of some hailstones has worried many meteorologists — but not text-book meteorologists. I know of no more serene occupation than that of writing text-books — though writing for the War Cry, of the Salvation Army, may be equally unadventurous. In the drowsy tranquillity of a text-book, we easily and unintelligently read of dust particles around which icy rain forms, hailstones, in their fall, then increasing by accretion — but in the meteorological journals, we read often of air-spaces nucleating hailstones —
But it's the size of the things. Dip a marble in icy water. Dip and dip and dip it. If you're a resolute dipper, you will, after a while, have an object the size of a baseball — but I think a thing could fall from the moon in that length of time. Also the strata of them. The Maryland hailstones are unusual, but a dozen strata have often been counted. Ferrel gives an instance of thirteen strata. Such considerations led Prof. Schwedoff to argue that some hailstones are not, and can not, be generated in this earth's atmosphere — that they come from somewhere else. Now, in a relative existence, nothing can of itself be either attractive or repulsive: its effects are functions of its associations or implications. Many of our data have been taken from very conservative scientific sources: it was not until their discordant implications, or irreconcilabilities with the System, were perceived, that excommunication was pronounced against them.
Prof. Schwedoff's paper was read before the British Association (Rept. of 1882, p. 453).
The implication, and the repulsiveness of the implication to the snug and tight little exclusionists of 1882 — though we hold out that they were functioning well and ably relatively to 1882 —
That there is water — oceans or lakes and ponds, or rivers of it — that there is water away from, and yet not far-remote from, this earth's atmosphere and gravitation —
The pain of it:
That the snug little system of 1882 would be ousted from its reposefulness —
A whole new science to learn:
The Science of Super-Geography —
And Science is a turtle that says that its own shell encloses all things.
So the members of the British Association. To some of them Prof. Schwedoff's ideas were like slaps on the back of an environment-denying turtle: to some of them his heresy was like an offering of meat, raw and dripping, to milk-fed lambs. Some of them bleated like lambs, and some of them turled like turtles. We used to crucify, but now we ridicule: or, in the loss of vigor of all progress, the spike has etherealized into the laugh.
Sir William Thomson ridiculed the heresy, with the phantomosities of his era:
That all bodies, such as hailstones, if away from this earth's atmosphere, would have to move at planetary velocity — which would be positively reasonable if the pronouncements of St. Isaac were anything but articles of faith — that a hailstone falling through the earth's atmosphere, with planetary velocity, would perform 13,000 times as much work as would raise an equal weight of water one degree centigrade, and therefore never fall as a hailstone at all; be more than melted — super-volatalized —
These turls and these bleats of pedantry — though we insist that, relatively to 1882, these turls and bleats should be regarded as respectfully as we regard rag dolls that keep infants occupied and noiseless — it is the survival of rag dolls into maturity that we object to — so these pious and naïve ones who believed that 13,000 times something could have — that is, in quasi-existence — an exact and calculable resultant, whereas there is — in quasi-existence — nothing that can, except by delusion and convenience, be called a unit, in the first place — whose devotions to St. Isaac required blind belief in formulas of falling bodies —
Against data that were piling up, in their own time, of slow-falling meteorites; "milk warm" ones admitted even by Farrington and Merrill; at least one icy meteorite nowhere denied by the present orthodoxy, a datum as accessible to Thomson in 1882, as it is now to us, because it was an occurrence of 1860. Beans and needles and tacks and a magnet. Needles and tacks adhere to and systematize relatively to a magnet, but, if some beans, too, be caught up, they are irreconcilables to this system and drop right out of it. A member of the Salvation Army may hear over and over data that seem so memorable to an evolutionist. It seems remarkable that they do not influence him — one finds that he cannot remember them. It is incredible that Sir William Thomson had never heard of slow-falling, cold meteorites. It is simply that he had no power to remember such irreconcilabilities.
And then Mr. Symons again. Mr. Symons was a man who probably did more for the science of meteorology than did any other man of his time: therefore he probably did more to hold back the science of meteorology than did any other man of his time. In Nature, 41-135, Mr. Symons says that Prof. Schwedoff's ideas are "very droll."
I think that even more amusing is our own acceptance that, not very far above this earth's surface, is a region that will be the subject of a whole new science — super-geography — with which we shall immortalize ourselves in the resentments of the schoolboys of the future —
Pebbles and fragments of meteors and things from Mars and Jupiter and Azuria: wedges, delayed messages, cannon balls, bricks, nails, coal and coke and charcoal and offensive old cargoes — things that coat in ice in some regions and things that get into areas so warm that they putrefy — or that there are all the climates of geography in super-geography. I shall have to accept that, floating in the sky of this earth, there often are fields of ice as extensive as those on the Arctic Ocean — volumes of water in which are many fishes and frogs — tracts of land covered with caterpillars —
Aviators of the future. They fly up and up. Then they get out and walk. The fishing's good: the bait's right there. They find messages from other worlds — and within three weeks there's a big trade worked up in forged messages. Sometime I shall write a guide book to the Super-Sargasso Sea, for aviators, but just at present there wouldn't be much call for it.
We now have more of our expression upon hail as a concomitant, or more data of things that have fallen from the sky, with hail.
In general, the expression is:
These things may have been raised from some other part of the earth's surface, in whirlwinds, or may not have fallen, and may have been upon the ground, in the first place — but were the hailstones found with them, raised from some other part of the earth's surface, or were the hailstones upon the ground, in the first place?
As I said before, this expression is meaningless as to a few instances; it is reasonable to think of some coincidence between the fall of hail and the fall of other things: but, inasmuch as there have been a good many instances, — we begin to suspect that this is not so much a book we're writing as a sanitarium for overworked coincidences. If not conceivably could very large hailstones and lumps of ice form in this earth's atmosphere, and so then had to come from external regions, then other things in or accompanying very large hailstones and lumps of ice came from external regions — which worries us a little: we may be instantly translated to the Positive Absolute.
Cosmos, 13-120, quotes a Virginia newspaper, that fishes said to have been catfishes, a foot long, some of them, had fallen, in 1853, at Norfolk, Virginia, with hail.
Vegetable débris, not only nuclear, but frozen upon the surfaces of large hailstones, at Toulouse, France, July 28, 1874. (La Science Pour Tous, 1874-270.)
Description of a storm, at Pontiac, Canada, July 11, 1864, in which it is said that it was not hailstones that fell, but these "pieces of ice, from half an inch to over two inches in diameter." (Canadian Naturalist, 2-1-308):
"But the most extraordinary thing is that a respectable farmer, of undoubted veracity, says he picked up a piece of hail, or ice, in the center of which was a small green frog."
Storm at Dubuque, Iowa, June 16, 1882, in which fell hailstones and pieces of ice (Monthly Weather Review, June, 1882):
"The foreman of the Novelty Iron Works, of this city, states that in two large hailstones melted by him were found small living frogs." But pieces of ice that fell upon this occasion had a peculiarity that indicates — though by as bizarre an indication as any we've had yet — that they had been for a long time motionless or floating somewhere. We'll take that up soon.
Living Age, 52-186:
That, June 30, 1841, fishes, one of which was ten inches long, fell at Boston; that, eight days later, fishes and ice fell at Derby.
In Timb's Year Book, 1842-275, it is said that, at Derby, the fishes had fallen in enormous numbers; from half an inch to two inches long, and some considerably larger. In the Athenæum, 1841-542, copied from the Sheffield Patriot, it is said that one of the fishes weighed three ounces. In several accounts, it is said that, with the fishes, fell many small frogs and pieces of "half-melted ice." We are told that the frogs and the fishes had been raised from some other part of the earth's surface, in a whirlwind; no whirlwind specified; nothing said as to what part of the earth's surface comes ice, in the month of July—interests us that the ice is described as "half-melted." In the London Times, July 15, 1841, it is said that the fishes were sticklebacks; that they had fallen with ice and small frogs, many of which had survived the fall. We note that, at Dunfermline, three months later (Oct. 7, 1841) fell many fishes, several inches in length, in a thunderstorm. (London Times, Oct. 12, 1841.)
Hailstones we don't care so much about. The matter of stratification seems significant, but we think more of the fall of lumps of ice from the sky, as possible data of the Super-Sargasso Sea:
Lumps of ice, a foot in circumference, Derbyshire, England, May 12, 1811 (Annual Register, 1811-54); cuboidal mass, six inches in diameter, that fell near Birmingham, 26 days later, June 8, 1811 (Thomson, Intro. to Meteorology, p. 129); size of pumpkins, Bungalore, India, May 22, 1851 (Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1855-35); masses of ice of a pound and a half each, New Hampshire, Aug. 13, 1851 (Lummis, Meteorology, p. 129); masses of ice, size of a man's head, in the Delphos tornado (Ferrel, Popular Treatise, p. 428); large as a man's hand, killing thousands of sheep, Mason, Texas, May 3, 1877 (Monthly Weather Review, May, 1877); "pieces of ice so large that they could not be grasped in one hand," in a tornado, in Colorado, June 24, 1877 (Monthly Weather Review, June, 1877); lump of ice four and a half inches long, Richmond, England, Aug. 2, 1879 (Symons' Met. Mag., 14-100); mass of ice, 21 inches in circumference that fell with hail, Iowa, June, 1881 (Monthly Weather Review, June, 1881); "pieces of ice" eight inches long, and an inch and a half thick, Davenport, Iowa, Aug. 30, 1882 (Monthly Weather Review, Aug., 1882); lump of ice size of a brick; weight two pounds, Chicago, July 12, 1883, (Monthly Weather Review, July, 1883); lumps of ice that weighed one pound and a half each, India, May (?), 1888, (Nature, 37-42); lump of ice weighing four pounds, Texas, Dec. 6, 1893 (Sc. Am., 68-58); lumps of ice one pound in weight, Nov. 14, 1901, in a tornado, Victoria (Meteorology of Australia, p. 34).
Of course it is our acceptance that these masses not only accompanied tornadoes, but were brought down to this earth by tornadoes.
Flammarion, The Atmosphere, p. 34:
Block of ice, weighing four and a half pounds fell at Cazorta, Spain, June 15, 1829; block of ice, weighing eleven pounds, at Cette, France, Oct., 1844; mass of ice three feet long, three feet wide, and more than two feet thick, that fell, in a storm, in Hungary, May 8, 1802.
Scientific American, 47-119:
That, according to the Salina Journal, a mass of ice weighing about 80 pounds had fallen from the sky, near Salina, Kansas, Aug., 1882. We are told that Mr. W. J. Hagler, the North Sante Fé merchant became possessor of it, and packed it in sawdust in his store.
London Times, April 7, 1860:
That, upon the 16th of March, 1860, in a snowstorm, in Upper Wasdale, blocks of ice, so large that at a distance they looked like a flock of sheep, had fallen.
Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1851-32:
That a mass of ice about a cubic yard in size had fallen at Candeish, India, 1828.
Against these data, though, so far as I know, so many of them have never been assembled together before, there is a silence upon the part of scientific men that is unusual. Our Super-Sargasso Sea may not be an unavoidable conclusion, but arrival upon this earth of ice from external regions does seem to be — except that there must be, be it ever so faint, a merger. It is in the notion that these masses of ice are only congealed hailstones. We have data against this notion, as applied to all our instances, but the explanation has been offered, and, it seems to me, may apply in some instances. In the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, 20-245, it is said of blocks of ice the size of decanters that had fallen at Tunis that they were only masses of congealed hailstones.
London Times, Aug. 4, 1857:
That a block of ice, described as "pure" ice, weighing 25 pounds, had been found in the meadow of Mr. Warner, of Cricklewood. There had been a storm the day before. As in some of our other instances, no one had seen this object fall from the sky. It was found after the storm: that's all that can be said about it.
Letter from Capt. Blakiston, communicated by Gen. Sabine, to the Royal Society (London Roy. Soc. Proc., 10-468):
That, Jan. 14, 1860, in a thunderstorm, pieces of ice had fallen upon Capt. Blakiston's vessel — that it was not hail. "It was not hail, but irregular shaped pieces of solid ice of different dimensions, up to the size of half a brick."
According to the Advertiser-Scotsman, quoted by the Edinburgh New Philosophical Magazine, 47-371, an irregular-shaped mass of ice fell at Ord, Scotland, Aug., 1849, after "an extraordinary peal of thunder."
It is said that this was homogeneous ice, except in a small part, which looked like congealed hailstones.
The mass was about 20 feet in circumference.
The story, as told in the London Times, Aug. 14, 1849, is that, upon the evening of the 13th of August, 1849, after a loud peal of thunder, a mass of ice said to have been 20 feet in circumference, had fallen upon the estate of Mr. Moffat, of Balvullich, Rossshire. It is said that this object fell alone, or without hailstones.
Altogether, though it is not so strong for the Super-Sargasso Sea, I think this is one of our best expressions upon external origins. That large blocks of ice could form in the moisture of this earth's atmosphere is about as likely as that blocks of stone could form in a dust whirl. Of course, if ice or water comes to this earth from external sources, we think of at least minute organisms in it, and on, with our data, to frogs, fishes; on to anything that's thinkable, coming from external sources. It's of great importance to us to accept that large lumps of ice have fallen from the sky, but what we desire most — perhaps because of our interest in its archæologic and paleontologic treasures — is now to be through with tentativeness and probation, and to take the Super-Sargasso Sea into full acceptance in our more advanced fold of the chosen of this twentieth century.
In the Report of the British Association, 1855-37, it is said that, at Poorhundur, India, Dec. 11, 1854, flat pieces of ice, many of them weighing several pounds — each, I suppose — had fallen from the sky. They are described as "large ice-flakes."
Vast fields of ice in the Super-Arctic regions, or strata, of the Super-Sargasso Sea. When they break up, their fragments are flake-like. In our acceptance, there are aerial ice-fields that are remote from this earth; that break up, fragments grinding against one another, rolling in vapor and water, of different constituency in different regions, forming slowly as stratified hailstones — but that there are ice-fields near this earth, that break up into just flat pieces of ice as cover any pond or river when ice of a pond or river is broken, and are sometimes soon precipitated to the earth, in this familiar flat formation.
Symons' Met. Mag., 43-154:
A correspondent writes that, at Braemar, July 2, 1908, when the sky was clear overhead, and the sun shining, pieces of ice fell — from somewhere. The sun was shining, but something was going on somewhere: thunder was heard.
Until I saw the reproduction of a photograph in the Scientific American, Feb. 21, 1914, I had supposed that these ice-fields must be, say, at least ten to twenty miles away from this earth, and invisible, to terrestrial observers, except as the blurs that have so often been reported by astronomers and meteorologists. The photograph published by the Scientific American is of an aggregation supposed to be clouds, presumably not very high, so clearly detailed they are. The writer says that they looked to him like "a field of broken ice." Beneath is a picture of a conventional field of ice, floating ordinarily in the water. The resemblance between the two pictures is striking — nevertheless, it seems to me incredible that the first of the photographs could be of an aerial ice-field, or that gravitation could cease to act at only a mile or so from this earth's surface —
The exceptional: the flux and vagary of all things.
Or that normally this earth's gravitation extends, say, ten or fifteen miles outward — but that gravitation must be rhythmic.
Of course, in the pseudo-formulas of astronomers, gravitation as a fixed quantity is essential. Accept that gravitation is a variable force, and astronomers deflate, with a perceptible hissing sound, into the punctured condition of economists, biologists, meteorologists, and all others of the humbler divinities, who can admittedly offer only insecure approximations.
We refer all who would not like to hear the hiss of escaping arrogance, to Herbert Spencer's chapters upon the rhythm of all phenomena.
If everything else — light from the stars, heat from the sun, the winds and the tides; forms and colors and sizes of animals; demands and supplies and prices; political opinions and chemic reactions and religious doctrines and magnetic intensities and the ticking of clocks; and the arrival and departure of the seasons — if everything else is variable, we accept that the notion of gravitation as fixed and formulable is only another attempted positivism, doomed, like all other illusions of realness in quasi-existence. So it is intermediatism to accept that, though gravitation may approximate higher to invariability than do the winds, for instance, it must be somewhere between the Absolutes of Stability and Instability. Here then we are not much impressed with the opposition of physicists and astronomers, fearing, a little mournfully, that their language is of expiring sibilations.
So then the fields of ice in the sky, and that, though usually so far away as to be mere blurs, at times they come close enough to be seen in detail. For description of what I call a "blur," see Pop. Sci. News, Feb., 1884 — sky, in general, unusually clear, but, near the sun, "a white, slightly curdled haze, which was dazzlingly bright."
We accept that sometimes fields of ice pass between the sun and the earth: that many strata of ice, or very thick fields of ice, or superimposed fields would obscure the sun — that there have been occasions when the sun was eclipsed by fields of ice:
Flammarion, The Atmosphere, p. 394:
That a profound darkness came upon the city of Brussels, June 18, 1839:
There fell flat pieces of ice, an inch long.
Intense darkness at Aitkin, Minn., April 2, 1889; sand and "solid chunks of ice" reported to have fallen (Science, April 19, 1889).
In Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 32-172, are outlined rough-edged by smooth-surfaced pieces of ice that fell at Manassas, Virginia, Aug. 10, 1897. They look as much like the roughly broken fragments of a smooth sheet of ice — as ever have roughly broken fragments of a smooth sheet of ice looked. About two inches across, and one inch thick. In Cosmos, 3-116, it is said that, at Rouen, July 5, 1853, fell irregular-shaped pieces of ice, about the size of a hand, described as looking as if all had been broken from one enormous block of ice. That I think, was an aerial iceberg. In the awful density, or almost absolute stupidity of the 19th century, it never occurred to anybody to look for traces of polar bears or of seals upon these fragments.
Of course, seeing what we want to see, having been able to gather these data only because they are in agreement with notions formed in advance, we are not so respectful to our own notions as to a similar impression forced upon an observer who had no theory or acceptance to support. In general, our prejudices see and our prejudices investigate, but this should not be taken as an absolute.
Monthly Weather Review, July, 1894:
That, from the Weather Bureau, of Portland, Oregon, a tornado, of June 3, 1894, was reported.
Fragments of ice fell from the sky.
They averaged three to four inches square, and about an inch thick. In length and breadth they had the smooth surfaces required by our acceptance: and, according to the writer in the Review, "gave the impression of a vast field of ice suspended in the atmosphere and suddenly broken into fragments about the size of the palm of the hand."
This datum, profoundly of what we used to call the "damned," or before we could no longer accept judgment, or cut and dried condemnation by infants, turtles, and lambs, was copied—but without comment — in the Scientific American, 71-371.
Our theology is something like this:
Of course we ought to be damned — but we revolt against adjudication by infants, turtles, and lambs.
We now come to some remarkable data in a rather difficult department of super-geography. Vast fields of aerial ice. There's a lesson to me in the treachery of the imaginable. Most of our opposition is in the clearness with which the conventional, but impossible, becomes the imaginable, and then the resistant to modifications. After it had become the conventional with me, I conceived clearly of vast sheets of ice, a few miles above this earth — then the shining of the sun, and the ice partly melting — that note upon the ice that fell at Derby — water trickling and forming icicles upon the lower surface of the ice sheet. I seemed to look up and so clearly visualized those icicles hanging like stalactites from a flat-roofed cave, in white calcite. Or I looked up at the under side of an aerial ice-lump, and seemed to see a papillation similar to that observed by a calf at times. But then — but then — if icicles should form upon the under side of a sheet of aerial ice, that would be by the falling of water toward this earth; an icicle is of course an expression of gravitation — and, if water melting from ice should fall toward this earth, why not the ice itself fall before an icicle could have time to form? Of course, in quasi-existence, where everything is a paradox, one might argue that the water falls, but the ice does not, because ice is heavier — that is, in masses. That notion, I think, belongs in a more advanced course than we are taking at the present.
Our expression upon icicles:
A vast field of aerial ice — it is inert to this earth's gravitation — but by universal flux and variation, part of it sags closer to this earth, and is susceptible to gravitation — by cohesion with the main mass, this part does not fall, but water melting from it does fall, and forms icicles — then, by various disturbances, this part sometimes falls in fragments that are protrusive with icicles.
Of the ice that fell, some of it enclosing living frogs, at Dubuque, Iowa, June 16, 1882, it is said (Monthly Weather Review, June, 1882), that there were pieces from one to seventeen inches in circumference, the largest weighing one pound and three-quarters — that upon some of them were icicles half an inch in length. We emphasize that these objects were not hailstones.
The only merger is that of knobby hailstones, or of large hailstones with protuberances wrought by crystallization: but that is no merger with terrestrial phenomena, and such formations are unaccountable to orthodoxy; or it is incredible that hail could so crystallize — not forming by accretion — in the fall of a few seconds. For an account of such hailstones, see Nature, 61-594. Note the size — "some of them the size of turkeys' eggs."
It is our expression that sometimes the icicles themselves have fallen, as if by concussion, or as if something had swept against the under side of an aerial ice floe, detaching its papillations.
Monthly Weather Review, June, 1889:
That, at Oswego, N. Y., June 9, 1889, according to the Turin (N. Y.) Leader, there fell, in a thunderstorm, pieces of ice that "resembled the fragments of icicles."
Monthly Weather Review, 29-506:
That on Florence Island, St. Lawrence River, Aug. 8, 1901, with ordinary hail, fell pieces of ice "formed like icicles, the size and shape of lead pencils had been cut into section about three-eighths of an inch in length.
So our data of the Super-Sargasso Sea, and its Arctic region: and, for weeks at a time, an ice field may hang motionless over a part of this earth's surface — the sun has some effect upon it, but not much until late in the afternoon, I should say — part of it has sagged, but is held up by cohesion with the main mass — whereupon we have such an occurrence as would have been a little uncanny to us once upon a time — or fall of water from a cloudless sky, day after day, in one small part of the earth's surface, late in the afternoon, when the sun's rays had had time for their effects:
Monthly Weather Review, Oct., 1886:
That, according to the Charlotte Chronicle, Oct. 21, 1886, for three weeks there had been a fall of water from the sky, in Charlotte, N. C., localized in one particular spot, every afternoon, about three o'clock; that, whether the sky was cloudy or cloudless, the water or rain fell upon a small patch of land between two trees and nowhere else.
This is the newspaper account, and, as such, it seems in the depths of the unchosen, either by me or any other expression of the Salvation Army. The account by the Signal Service observer, at Charlotte, published in the Review, follows:
"An unusual phenomenon was witnessed on the 21st; having been informed that for some weeks prior to date rain had been falling daily after 3 P.M., on a particular spot, near two trees, corner of 9th and D streets, I visited the place, and saw precipitation in the form of rain drops at 4:47 and 4:55 P.M., while the sun was shining brightly. On the 22nd, I again visited the place, and from 4:05 to 4:25 P.M., a light shower of rain fell from a cloudless sky....Sometimes the precipitation falls over an area of half an acre, but always appears to centre at these two trees, and when lightest occurs there only."
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