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The Book of the Damned
By Charles Fort (1874-1932)
Noded by panamaus
I SHALL attempt not much of correlation of dates. A mathematic-minded positivist, with his delusion that in an intermediate state twice two are four, whereas, if we accept Continuity, we can not accept that these are anywhere two things to start with, would search our data for periodicities. It is so obvious to me that the mathematic, or the regular, is the attribute of the Universal, that I have not much inclination to look for it in the local. Still, in this solar system, "as a whole," there is considerable approximation to regularity; or the mathematic is so nearly localized that eclipses, for instance, can, with rather high approximation, be foretold, though I have notes that would deflate a little the astronomers' vainglory in this respect — or would if that were possible. An astronomer is poorly paid, uncheered by crowds, considerably isolated: he lives upon his own inflations: deflate a bear and it couldn't hibernate. This solar system is like every other phenomenon that can be regarded "as a whole" — or the affairs of a ward are interfered with by the affairs of the city of which it is a part; city by county; county by state; state by nation; nation by other nations; all nations by climatic conditions; climatic conditions by solar circumstances; sun by general planetary circumstances; solar system "as a whole" by other solar systems — so the hopelessness of finding the phenomena of entirety in the ward of a city. But positivists are those who try to find the unrelated in the ward of a city. In our acceptance this is the spirit of cosmic religion. Objectively the state is not realizable in the ward of a city. But, if a positivist could bring himself to absolute belief that he had found it, that would be a subjective realization of that which is unrealizable objectively. Of course we do not draw a positive line between the objective and subjective — or that all phenomena called things or persons are subjective within one all-inclusive nexus, and that thoughts within those that are commonly called "persons" are sub-subjective. It is rather as if Intermediateness strove for Regularity in this solar system and failed: then generated the mentality of astronomers, and, in that secondary expression, strove for conviction that failure had been success.
I have tabulated all the data of this book, and a great deal besides — card system — and several proximities, thus emphasized, have been revelations to me: nevertheless, it is only the method of theologians and scientists — worst of all, of statisticians.
For instance, by the statistic method, I could "prove" that a black rain had fallen "regularly" every seven months, somewhere upon this earth. To do this, I'd have to include red rains and yellow rains, but, conventionally, I'd pick out the black particles in red substances and in yellow substances, and disregard the rest. Then, too, if here and there, a black rain should be a week early or a month late — that would be "acceleration" or "retardation." This is supposed to be legitimate in working out the periodicities of comets. If black rains, or red or yellow rains with black particles in them, should not appear at all near some dates — we have not read Darwin in vain — "the records are not complete." As to other, interfering black rains, they'd be either gray or brown, or for them we'd find other periodicities.
Still, I have had to notice the year 1819, for instance. I shall not note them all in this book, but I have records of 31 extraordinary events in 1883. Someone should write a book upon the phenomena of this one year — that is, if books should be written. 1849 is notable for extraordinary falls, so far apart that a local explanation seems inadequate — not only the black rain of Ireland, May, 1849,; but a red rain in Sicily and a red rain in Wales. Also, it is said (Timb's Year Book, 1850-241) that, upon April 18 or 20, 1849, shepherds near Mt. Ararat, found a substance that was not indigenous, upon areas measuring 5 to 10 miles in circumference. Presumably it had fallen there.
We have already gone into the subject of Science and its attempted positiveness, and its resistances in that it must have relations of service. It is very easy to see that most of the theoretic science of the 19th century was only a relation of reaction against theologic dogma, and has no more to do with Truth than has a wave that bounds back from a shore. Or, if a shop girl, or you or I, should pull out a piece of chewing gum about a yard long, that would be quite as scientific a performance as was the stretching of this earth's age several hundred million of years.
All "things" are not things, but only relations, or expressions of relations: but all relations are striving to be unrelated, or have surrendered to, and subordinated to, higher attempts. So there is a positivist aspect to this reaction that is itself only a relation, and that is the attempt to assimilate all phenomena under the materialist explanation, or to formulate a final, all-inclusive system, upon the materialist basis. If this attempt could be realized, that would be the attaining of realness; but this attempt can be made only by disregarding psychic phenomena, for instance — or, if science shall eventually give in to the psychic, it would be no more legitimate to explain the immaterial in terms of the material, than to explain the material in terms of the immaterial. Our own acceptance is that material and immaterial are of a oneness, merging, for instance, in a thought that is continuous with a physical action: that oneness cannot be explained, because the process of explaining is the interpreting of something in terms of something else. All explanation is assimilation of something in terms of something else that has been taken as a basis: but, in Continuity, there is nothing that is any more basic than anything else — unless we think that delusion built upon delusion is less real than its pseudo-foundation.
In 1829 (Timb's Year Book, 1848-235) in Persia, fell a substance that the people said they had never seen before. As to what it was, they had not a notion, but they saw that the sheep ate it. They ground it into flour and made bread, said to have been passable enough, though insipid.
That was a chance that science did not neglect. Manna was placed upon a reasonable basis, or was assimilated and reconciled with the system that had ousted the older — and less nearly real — system. It was said that, likely enough, manna had fallen in ancient times — because it was still falling — but that there was no tutelary influence behind it — that it was a lichen from the steppes of Asia Minor — "up from one place in a whirlwind and down in another place." In the American Almanac, 1833-71, it is said that this substance — "unknown to the inhabitants of the region" — was "immediately recognized" by scientists who examined it: and that "the chemical analysis also identified it as a lichen."
This was back in the days when Chemical Analysis was a god. Since then his devotees have been shocked and disillusioned. Just how a chemical analysis could so botanize, I don't know — but it was Chemical Analysis who spoke, and spoke dogmatically. It seems to me that the ignorance of inhabitants, contrasting with the local knowledge of foreign scientists, is overdone: if there's anything good to eat, within any distance conveniently covered by a whirlwind — inhabitants know it. I have data of other falls, in Persia and Asiatic Turkey, of edible substances. They are all dogmatically said to be "manna"; and "manna" is dogmatically said to be a species of lichens from the steppes of Asia Minor. The position I take is that this explanation was evolved in ignorance of the fall of vegetable substances, or edible substances, in other parts of the world: that it is the familiar attempt to explain the general in terms of the local; that, if we shall have data of falls of vegetable substance, in, say, Canada, or India, they were not of lichens from the steppes of Asia Minor; that, though all falls in Asiatic Turkey and Persia are sweepingly and conveniently called showers of "manna," they have not been even all of the same substance. In one instance the particles are said to have been "seeds." Though, in Comptes Rendus, the substance in 1841 and 1846, is said to have been gelatinous, in the Bull. Sci. Nat. de Neuchatel, it is said to have been of something, in lumps the size of a filbert, that had been ground into flour; that of this flour had been made bread, very attractive-looking, but flavorless.
The great difficulty is to explain segregation in these showers —
But deep-sea fishes and occasional falls down to them, of edible substances; bags of grain, barrels of sugar; things that had not been whirled up from one part of the ocean-bottom, in storms or submarine disturbances, and dropped somewhere else —
I suppose one thinks — but grain in bags never has fallen —
Object of Amherst — its covering like "milled cloth" —
Or barrels of corn lost from a vessel would not sink — but a host of them clashing together, after a wreck — they burst open; the corn sinks, or does when saturated; the barrel staves float longer —
If there be not an overhead traffic in commodities similar to our own commodities carried over this earth's oceans — I'm not the deep-sea fish I think I am.
I have no data other than the mere suggestion of the Amherst object of bags or barrels, but my notion is that bags and barrels from a wreck on one of this earth's oceans, would, by the time they reached the bottom, no longer be recognizable as bags or barrels; that, if we can have data of the fall of fibrous material that may have been cloth or paper or wood, we shall be satisfactory and grotesque enough.
Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., 1-379:
"In the year 1686, some workmen, who had been fetching water from a pond, seven German miles from Memel, on returning to their work, after dinner (during which there had been a snow storm) found the flat ground around the pond covered with a coal-black, leafy mass; and a person who lived near said he had seen it fall like flakes with the snow."
Some of these flake-like formations were as large as a table-top.
"The mass was damp and smelt disagreeably, like rotten seaweed, but, when dried, the smell went off.
"It tore fibrously like paper."
"Up from one place, and down in another."
But what went up, from one place, in a whirlwind? Of course, our Intermediatist acceptance is that had this been the strangest substance conceivable, from the strangest other world that could be thought of; somewhere upon this earth there must be a substance similar to it, or from which it would, at least subjectively, or according to description, not be easily distinguishable. Or that everything in New York City is only another degree or aspect of something, or combination of things, in a village of Central Africa. The novel is a challenge to vulgarization: write something that looks new to you; some one will point out that the thrice-accursed Greeks said it long ago. Existence is Appetite: the gnaw of being; the one attempt of all things to assimilate all other things, if they have not surrendered and submitted to some higher attempt. It was cosmic that these scientists, who had surrendered to and submitted to the Scientific System, should, consistently with the principles of the system, attempt to assimilate the substance that fell at Memel with some known terrestrial product. At the meeting of the Royal Irish Academy it was brought out that there is a substance, of rather rare occurrence, that has been known to form in thin sheets upon marsh land.
It looks like greenish felt.
The substance of Memel:
Damp, coal-black, leafy mass.
But, if broken up, the marsh-substance is flake-like, and it tears fibrously.
An elephant can be identified as a sunflower — both have long stems. A camel is indistinguishable from a peanut — if only their humps be considered.
Trouble with this book is that we'll end up a lot of intellectual roués: we'll be incapable of being astonished with anything. We knew, to start with, that science and imbecility are continuous; nevertheless so many expressions of the merging-point are at first startling. We did think that Prof. Hitchcock's performance in identifying the Amherst phenomenon as a fungus was rather notable as scientific vaudeville, if we acquit him of the charge of seriousness — or that, in a place where fungi are so common that, before a given evening two of them sprang up, only he, a stranger in this very fungiferous place, knew a fungus when he saw something like a fungus — if we disregard its quick liquefaction, for instance. It was only a monologue, however: now we have an all-star cast: and they're not only Irish; they're royal Irish.
The royal Irishmen excluded "coal-blackness" and included fibrousness: so then that this substance was "marsh-paper," which "had been raised into the air by storms of wind, and had again fallen."
It was said that, according to M. Ehrenburg, "the meteor-paper was found to consist partly of vegetable matter, chiefly of conifervæ."
Meeting of the royal Irishmen: chairs, tables, Irishmen:
Some flakes of marsh-paper were exhibited.
Their composition was chiefly of conifervæ.
This was a double inclusion: or it's the method of agreement that logicians make so much of. So no logician would be satisfied with identifying a peanut as a camel, because both have humps: he demands accessory agreement — that both can live a long time without water, for instance.
Now, it's not so very unreasonable, at least to the free and easy vaudeville standards that, throughout this book, we are considering, to think that a green substance could be snatched up from one place in a whirlwind, and fall as a black substance somewhere else: but the royal Irishmen excluded something else, and it is a datum that was accessible to them as it is to me:
That, according to Chladni, this was no little, local deposition that was seen to occur by some indefinite person living near a pond somewhere.
It was a tremendous fall from a vast sky-area.
Likely enough all the marsh paper in the world could not have supplied it.
At the same time, this substance was falling "in great quantities," in Norway and Pomerania. Or see Kirkwood, Meteoric Astronomy, p. 66:
"Substance like charred paper fell in Norway and other parts of northern Europe, Jan. 31, 1686."
Or a whirlwind, with a distribution as wide as that, would not acceptably, I should say, have so specialized in the rare substance called "marsh paper." There'd have been falls of fence rails, roofs of houses, parts of trees. Nothing is said of the occurrence of a tornado in northern Europe, in January, 1686. There is record only of this one substance having fallen in various places.
Time went on, but the conventional determination to exclude data of all falls to this earth, except of substances of this earth, and of ordinary meteoric matter, strengthened.
Annals of Philosophy, 16-68:
The substance that fell in January, 1686, is described as "a mass of black leaves, having the appearance of burnt paper, but harder, and cohering, and brittle."
"Marsh paper" is not mentioned, and there is nothing said of the "conifervæ," which seemed so convincing to the royal Irishmen. Vegetable composition is disregarded, quite as it might be by some one who might find it convenient to identify a crook-necked squash as a big fish hook.
Meteorites are usually covered with a black crust, more or less scale-like. The substance of 1686 is black and scale-like. If so be convenience, leaf-likeness is scale-likeness. In this attempt to assimilate with the conventional, we are told that the substance is a mineral mass: that it is like the black scales that cover meteorites.
The scientist who made this "identification" was von Grotthus. He had appealed to the god Chemical Analysis. Or the power and glory of mankind — with which we're not always so impressed — but the gods must tell us what we want them to tell us. We see again that, though nothing has identity of its own, anything can be "identified" as anything. Or there's nothing that's not reasonable, if one snoopeth not into its exclusions. But here the conflict did not end. Berzelius examined the substance. He could not find nickel in it. At that time, the presence of nickel was the "positive" test of meteoritic matter. Whereupon, with a suppositious "positive" standard of judgment against him, von Grotthus revoked his "identification." (Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist., 1-3-185).
This equalization of eminences permits us to project with our own expression, which, otherwise, would be subdued into invisibility:
That it's too bad that no one ever looked to see — hieroglyphics? — something written upon these sheets of paper?
If we have no very great variety of substances that have fallen to this earth; if, upon this earth's surface there is infinite variety of substances detachable by whirlwinds, two falls of such a rare substance as marsh paper would be remarkable.
A writer in the Edinburgh Review, 87-194, says that at the time of writing, he had before him a portion of a sheet of 200 square feet, of a substance that had fallen at Carolath, Silesia, in 1839 — exactly similar to cotton-felt, of which clothing might have been made. The god Microscopic Examination had spoken. The substance consisted chiefly of conifervæ.
Jour. Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, 1847-pt. 1-193:
That March 16, 1846 — about the time of a fall of edible substance in Asia Minor — an olive-gray powder fell at Shanghai. Under the microscope, it was seen to be an aggregation of hairs of two kinds, black ones and rather thick white ones. They were supposed to be mineral fibres, but, when burned, they gave out "the common ammonical smell and smoke of burnt hair or feathers." The writer described the phenomenon as "a cloud of 3800 square miles of fibers, alkali, and sand." In a postscript, he says that other investigators, with more powerful microscopes, gave opinion that the fibres were not hairs; that the substance consisted chiefly of conifervæ.
Or the pathos of it, perhaps; or the dull and uninspired, but courageous persistence of the scientific: everything seemingly found out is doomed to be subverted — by more powerful microscopes and telescopes; by more refined, precise, searching means and methods — the new pronouncements irrepressibly bobbing up; their reception always as Truth at last; always the illusion of the final; very little of the Intermediatist spirit —
That the new that has displaced the old will itself some day be displaced; that it, too, will be recognized as myth-stuff —
But that if phantoms climb, spooks of ladders are good enough for them.
Annual Register, 1821-681:
That, according to a report by M. Lainé, French Consul at Pernambuco, early in October, 1821, there was a shower of a substance resembling silk. The quantity was tremendous as might be a whole cargo, lost somewhere between Jupiter and Mars, having drifted around perhaps for centuries, the original fabrics slowly disintegrating. In Annales de Chimie, 2-15-427, it is said that samples of this substance were sent to France by M. Lainé, and that they proved to have some resemblances to silky filaments which, at certain times of the year, are carried by the wind near Paris.
In the Annals of Philosophy, n.s., 12-93, there is mention of a fibrous substance like blue silk that fell near Naumberg, March 23, 1665. According to Chladni (Annales de Chimie, 2-31-264), the quantity was great. He places a question mark before the date.
One of the advantages of Intermediatism is that, in the oneness of quasiness, there can be no mixed metaphors. Whatever is acceptable of anything, is, in some degree or aspect, acceptable of everything. So it is quite proper to speak, for instance, of something that is as firm as a rock and that sails in a majestic march. The Irish are good monists: they have of course been laughed at for their keener perceptions. So it's a book we're writing, or it's a procession, or it's a museum, with a Chamber of Horrors rather over-emphasized. A rather horrible correlation occurs in the Scientific American, 1859-178. What interests us is that a correspondent saw a silky substance fall from the sky — there was an aurora borealis at the time — he attributes the substance to the aurora.
Since the time of Darwin, the classic explanation has been that all silky substances that fall from the sky are spider webs. In 1832, aboard the Beagle, at the mouth of La Plata River, 60 miles from land, Darwin saw an enormous number of spiders, of the kind usually known as "gossamer" spiders, little aeronauts that cast out filaments by which the wind carries them.
It's difficult to express that silky substances that have fallen to this earth were not spider webs. My own acceptance is that spider webs are the merger; that there have been falls of an externally derived silky substance, and also of the webs, or strands, rather, of aeronautic spiders indigenous to this earth; that in some instances it is impossible to distinguish one from the other. Of course, our expression upon silky substances will merge away into expressions upon other seeming textile substances, and I don't know how much better off we'll be —
Except that, if fabricable materials have fallen from the sky —
Simply to establish acceptance of that may be doing well enough in this book of first and tentative explorations.
In All the Year Round, 8-254, is described a fall that took place in England, Sept. 21, 1741, in the towns of Bradly, Selbourne, and Alresford, and in a triangular space included by these three towns. The substance is described as "cobwebs" — but it fell in flake-formation, or in "flakes or rags about one inch broad and five or six long." Also these flakes were of a relatively heavy substance — "they fell with some velocity." The quantity was great — the shortest side of the triangular space is eight miles long. In the Wernerian Nat. Hist. Soc. Trans., 5-386, it is said that there were two falls — that they were some hours apart—a datum that is becoming familiar to us — a datum that can not be taken into the fold, unless we find it repeated over and over and over again. It is said that the second fall lasted from nine o'clock in the morning until night.
Now the hypnosis of the classic — that what we call intelligence is only an expression of inequilibrium; that when mental adjustments are made, intelligence ceases — or, of course, that intelligence is the confession of ignorance. If you have intelligence upon any subject, that is something you're still learning — if we agree that that which is learned is always mechanically done — in quasi-terms, of course, because nothing is ever finally learned.
It was decided that this substance was spiders' web. That was adjustment. But it's not adjustment to me; so I'm afraid I shall have some intelligence in this matter. If I ever arrive at adjustment upon this subject, then, upon this subject, I shall be able to have no thoughts, except routine-thoughts. I haven't yet quite decided absolutely everything, so I am able to point out:
That this substance was of quantity so enormous that it attracted wide attention when it came down —
That it would have been equally noteworthy when it went up —
That there is no record of anyone, in England or elsewhere, having seen tons of "spider webs" going up, September, 1741.
Further confession of intelligence upon my part:
That, if it be contested, then, that the place of origin may have been far away, but still terrestrial —
Then it's that other familiar matter of incredible "marksmanship" again — hitting a small, triangular space for hours — interval of hours — then from nine in the morning until night: same triangular space.
These are the disregards of the classic explanation. There is no mention of spiders having been seen to fall, but a good inclusion is that, though this substance fell in good-sized flakes of considerable weight, it was viscous. In this respect it was like cobwebs: dogs nosing it in the grass, were blindfolded with it. This circumstance does strongly suggest cobwebs —
Unless we can accept that, in regions aloft, there are vast viscous or gelatinous areas, and that things passing through become daubed. Or perhaps we clear up the confusion in the descriptions of the substance that fell in 1841 and 1846, in Asia Minor, described in one publication as gelatinous, and in another as a cereal — that it was a cereal that had passed through a gelatinous region. That the paper-like substance at Memel may have had such an experience may be indicated in that Ehrenberg found in it gelatinous matter, which he called "nostoc." (Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist., 1-3-185.)
Scientific American, 45-337:
Fall of a substance described as "cobwebs," latter part of October, 1881, in Milwaukee, Wis., and other towns: other towns mentioned are Green Bay, Vesburge, Fort Howard, Sheboygan, and Ozaukee. The aeronautic spiders are known as "gossamer" spiders, because of the extreme lightness of the filaments that they cast out to the wind. Of the substance that fell in Wisconsin, it is said:
"In all instances the webs were strong in texture and very white."
The Editor says:
"Curiously enough, there is no mention, in any of the reports that we have seen, of the presence of spiders."
So our attempt to divorce a possible external product from its terrestrial merger: then our joy of the prospector who thinks he's found something.
The Monthly Weather Review, 26-566, quotes the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser:
That, upon Nov. 21, 1898, numerous batches of spider-web-like substance fell in Montgomery, in strands and in occasional masses several inches long and several inches broad. According to the writer, it was not spiders' web, but something like asbestos; also that it was phosphorescent.
The Editor of the Review says that he see no reason for doubting that these masses were cobwebs.
La Nature, 1883-342:
A correspondent writes that he sends a sample of a substance said to have fallen at Montussan (Gironde), Oct. 16, 1883. According to a witness, quoted by the correspondent, a thick cloud, accompanied by rain and a violent wind, had appeared. This cloud was composed of a woolly substance in lumps the size of a fist, which fell to the ground. The Editor (Tissandier) says of this substance that it was white, but was something that had been burned. It was fibrous. M. Tissandier astonishes us by saying that he can not identify this substance. We thought that anything could be "identified" as anything. He can only say that the cloud in question must have been an extraordinary conglomeration.
Annual Register, 1832-447:
That, March, 1832, there fell, in the fields of Kourianof, Russia, a combustible yellowish substance, covering, at least two inches thick, an area of 600 or 700 square feet. It was resinous and yellowish: so one inclines to the conventional explanation that it was pollen from pine trees — but, when torn, it had the tenacity of cotton. When placed in water, it had the consistency of resin. "This resin had the color of amber, was elastic, like India rubber, and smelled like prepared oil mixed with wax."
So in general our notion of cargoes — and our notion of cargoes of food supplies:
In Philosophical Transactions, 19-224, is an extract from a letter by Mr. Robert Vans, of Kilkenny, Ireland, dated Nov. 15, 1695: that there had been "of late," in the counties of Limerick and Tipperary, showers of a sort of matter like butter or grease...having "a very stinking smell."
There follows an extract from a letter by the Bishop of Cloyne, upon "a very odd phenomenon," which was observed in Munster and Leinster: that for a good part of the spring of 1695 there fell a substance which the country people called "butter" — "soft, clammy, and of a dark yellow" — that cattle fed "indifferently" in fields where this substance lay.
"It fell in lumps as big as the end of one's finger." It had a "strong ill scent." His Grace calls it a "stinking dew."
In Mr. Vans' letter, it is said that the "butter" was supposed to have medicinal properties, and "was gathered in pots and other vessels by some of the inhabitants of this place."
In all the following volumes of Philosophical Transactions there is no speculation upon this extraordinary subject. Ostracism. The fate of this datum is a good instance of damnation, not by denial, and not by explaining away, but by simple disregard. The fall is listed by Chladni, and is mentioned in other catalogs, but, from the absence of all inquiry, and of all but formal mention, we see that it has been under excommunication as much as was ever anything by the preceding system. The datum has been buried alive. It is as irreconcilable with the modern system of dogmas as ever were geologic strata and vermiform appendix with the preceding system —
If, intermittently, or "for a good part of the spring," this substance fell in two Irish provinces, and nowhere else, we have, stronger than before, a sense of a stationary region overhead, or a region that receives products like this earth's products, but from external sources, a region in which this earth's gravitational and meteorological forces are relatively inert — if for many weeks a good part of this substance did hover before finally falling. We suppose that, in 1685, Mr. Vans and the Bishop of Cloyne could describe what they saw as well as could witnesses in 1885: nevertheless, it is going far back; we shall have to have many modern instances before we can accept.
As to other falls, or another fall, it is said in the American Journal of Science, 1-28-361, that, April 11, 1832 — about a month after the fall of the substance of Kourianof — fell a substance that was wine-yellow, transparent, soft, and smelling like rancid oil. M. Herman, a chemist who examined it, named it "sky oil." For analysis and chemic reactions, see the Journal. The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, 13-368, mentions an "unctuous" substance that fell near Rotterdam, in 1832. In Comptes Rendus, 13-215, there is an account of an oily, reddish matter that fell at Genoa, February, 1841.
Whatever it may have been —
Altogether, most of our difficulties are problems that we should leave to later developers of super-geography, I think. A discoverer of America should leave Long Island to someone else. If there be, plying back and forth from Jupiter and Mars and Venus, super-constructions that are sometimes wrecked, we think of fuel as well as cargoes. Of course the most convincing data would be of coal falling from the sky: nevertheless, one does suspect that oil-burning engines were discovered ages ago in more advanced worlds — but, as I say, we should leave something to our disciples — so we'll not especially wonder whether these butter-like, or oily substances were food or fuel. So we merely note that in the Scientific American, 24-323, is an account of hail that fell, in the middle of April, 1871, in Mississippi, in which was a substance described as turpentine.
Something that tasted like orange water, in hailstones, about the first of June, 1842, near Nimes, France; identified as nitric acid (Jour. de Pharmacie, 1845-273).
Hail and ashes, in Ireland, 1755 (Sci. Amer., 5-168).
That, at Elizabeth, N.J., June 9, 1874, fell hail in which was a substance, said, by Prof. Leeds, of Stevens Institute, to be carbonate of soda (Sci. Amer., 30-262).
We are getting a little away from the lines of our composition, but it will be an important point later that so many extraordinary falls have occurred with hail. Or — if they were of substances that had had origin upon some other part of this earth's surface — had the hail, too, that origin? Our acceptance here will depend upon the number of instances. Reasonably enough, some of the things that fall to this earth should coincide with falls of hail.
As to vegetable substances in quantities so great as to suggest lost cargoes, we have a note in the Intellectual Observer, 3-468: that upon the first of May, 1863, a rain fell at Perpignan, "bringing down with it a red substance, which proved, on examination, to be a red meal mixed with fine sand." At various points along the Mediterranean, this substance fell.
There is, in Philosophical Transactions, 16-281, an account of a seeming cereal, said to have fallen in Wiltshire, in 1686 — said that some of the "wheat" fell enclosed in hailstones — but the writer in Transactions, says that he had examined the grains, and that they were nothing but seeds of ivy berries dislodged from holes and chinks where birds had hidden them. If birds still hide ivy seeds, and if winds still blow, I don't see why the phenomenon has not repeated in more than two hundred years since.
Or the red matter in rain, at Siena, Italy, May, 1830; said, by Arago, to have been vegetable matter, (Arago, Œuvres, 12-468).
Somebody should collect data of falls at Siena alone.
In the Monthly Weather Review, 29-465, a correspondent writes that, upon Feb. 16, 1901, at Pawpaw, Michigan, upon a day that was so calm that his windmill did not run, fell a brown dust that looked like vegetable matter. The Editor of the Review concludes that this was no widespread fall from a tornado, because it had been reported from nowhere else.
Rancidness — putridity — decomposition — a note that has been struck many times. In a positive sense, of course, nothing means anything, or every meaning is continuous with all other meanings: of that all evidences of guilt, for instance, are just as good evidences of innocence — but this condition seems to mean — things lying around among the stars a long time. Horrible disaster in the time of Julius Caesar; remains from it not reaching this earth till the time of the Bishop of Cloyne: we leave to later research the discussion of bacterial action and decomposition, and whether bacteria could survive in what we call space, of which we know nothing —
Chemical News, 35-182:
Dr. A.T. Machattie, F.C.S., writes that, at London, Ontario, Feb. 24, 1868, in a violent storm, fell, with snow, a dark-colored substance, estimated at 500 tons, over a belt 50 miles by 10 miles. It was examined under a microscope, by Dr. Machattie, who found it to consist mainly of vegetable matter "far advanced in decomposition." The substance was examined by Dr. James Adams, of Glascow, who gave his opinion that it was the remains of cereals. Dr. Machattie points out that for months before this fall the ground of Canada had been frozen, so that in this case a more than ordinary remote origin has to be thought of. Dr. Machattie thinks of origin to the south. "However, this," he says, "is mere conjecture."
Amer. Jour. Sci., 1841-40:
That, March 24, 1840 — during a thunderstorm — at Rajkit, India, occurred a fall of grain. It was reported by Col. Sykes, of the British Association.
The natives were greatly excited — because it was grain of a kind unknown to them.
Usually comes forward a scientist who knows more of the things that natives know best than the natives know — but it so happens that the usual thing was not done definitely in this instance:
"The grain was shown to some botanists, who did not immediately recognize it, but thought to be either a spartium or a vicia."
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