When is a cloud not a cloud? Perhaps when it behaves so strangely - even to the point of attacking people - that it becomes a truly puzzling manifestation
There's more unexplained strangeness in our skies other than UFOs. For generations, eyewitnesses have reported absolutely weird and astonishing activities or attributes from ordinary and sometimes not-so-ordinary looking clouds. Some of these reports were even recorded in prestigious scientific journals.
THE ROCK-FILLED CLOUD
Do you think only rain, snow, and ice can fall from clouds? In an otherwise clear September sky near Agen, France in 1814, a small, white, spherical cloud appeared. It floated motionless for a while before beginning to spin and head quickly southward. Witnesses reported that deafening rumbling noises thundered from the cloud, and then it suddenly exploded in a shower of rocks and stones. The cloud then slowly faded away.
MOVING AGAINST THE WIND
Besides meteorologists, perhaps no group of people knows clouds as well as sailors. On March 22, 1870, the crew of the bark Lady of the Lake saw a remarkable cloud and recorded its description in the ship's log. The report was reprinted in the Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. According to Capt. Banner, it was a circular cloud which included a semicircle that was divided into four parts, "the central dividing shaft beginning at the center of the circle and extending far outward, and then curving backward." Transfixed by this light gray but most unnatural-looking cloud, the sailors watched as it traveled from a point at about 20 degrees above the horizon to a point about 80 degrees above. "It was much lower than the other clouds," the log stated, and it traveled against the wind. "It came up obliquely against the wind, and finally settled down right in the wind's eye," the report stated. It was visible to the ship for half an hour, and when it did finally disappear, it did not disintegrate like a cloud, but "was lost to sight in the evening darkness."
A RAIN OF INSECTS
Mr. John Zeleny witnessed a peculiar, unexplained event in 1897. In a letter printed in a 1932 edition of Science magazine, Zeleny described a luminous, cumulus-type cloud that drifted over Hutchinson, Minnesota from the east. "It shone with a uniform, steady, vivid, whitish light and passed directly over the town," Zeleny wrote. "When the cloud was overhead, a great shower of insects descended to earth covering the ground all around to the number of about 50 to 100 per square foot." Upon examination, the insects proved to be a common type of bug of the species hemiptera. Zeleny also reported a second event that took place that same year but in Macerata, Italy. This time, out of blood-red clouds precipitated thousands of seeds unfamiliar to locals.
TRIANGLES IN THE CLOUDS
We've all seen dark patches on clouds, but how about patches that move from cloud to cloud? In the April 8, 1912 edition of Nature, the much-respected British science journal, Charles Tilden Smith wrote that at Chisbury, Wiltshire, England, he saw something in the sky "unlike anything that I have ever seen before. Although I have studied the skies for many years, I have never seen anything like it." Smith recalled that he saw two stationary dark patches upon the clouds. Extraordinarily, they were stationary with respect to the clouds, which were rapidly moving. The patches, which he described as fan-shaped or triangular, kept the same position on succeeding clouds as they passed across a particular region of the sky. Smith watched them for more than half an hour.
One year later, Monthly Weather Review published an April 8, 1913 report from Fort Worth, Texas that described a mysterious shadow of some unseen body on the clouds in the sky. "It was supposed to have been cast by an unseen cloud," the publication stated, "but this patch of shade moved with the declining sun."
ATTACKED BY A CLOUD
Storm clouds can be foreboding and sometimes dangerous, but it's not often that one appears to be deliberately malicious. It was a summer morning in 1975 that school teacher Tom D'Ercole of Oyster Bay, Long Island, had a very bizarre experience with a cloud that seemed to be after him. D'Ercole was about to get in his car when he saw a small, dark cloud hovering above his house. "The cloud seemed to move and slightly enlarge as I watched it," the science teacher said. "This basketball-sized cloud floated back and forth across the peak of the roof, changing in shape from a small globular mass to a larger ovoid and finally becoming an abstract, muticurved, dark, vaporous 'something.' It finally measured about six feet in height and one and a half feet in width." Then things got really strange. As D'Ercole watched in fascination and puzzlement, the cloud appeared to inhale, form pursed lips, a spit a stream of water at him and his car - drenching them both. After a few moments, the spray ended and the cloud disappeared.