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Encounters with Ball Lightning

Strange globes of energy that mystify, wander, even "attack"


BALL LIGHTNING IS a scientific enigma. These spherical, luminous balls of energy are generally recognized by the scientific community as a real phenomenon, but one that is not well understood. There doesn't seem to one cause to which they can be reliably attributed. They are sometimes seen during or after electrical storms. Sometimes they appear moving along railroad tracks in fine weather. They float through the air, roll along the ground, or dance on telephone wires. They can be as small as a marble or, in rare cases, as large as three feet in diameter.

Although artificial ball lightning as been created in the laboratory with sophisticated equipment, science is at a loss to explain how it is created naturally and how it manages to maintain the integrity of its ball-like shape as it moves about – sometimes moving harmlessly right through solid walls and other structures without apparently changing form. Yet other times it can be highly destructive.

These bizarre characteristics of ball lighting, reported by many eyewitnesses, for many years led scientists to doubt that the phenomenon existed at all. And because it is so mysterious and unexplained, it was seen by others as something paranormal in nature – some kind of spirit energy perhaps (or aliens). And its behavior is most puzzling of all. I say "behavior" because its movements often seem to be intelligently controlled, as you will see in some of the stories that follow. It follows people or objects, seems to "examine" things, and has even been accused of attacking people... all before fading, popping, or exploding out of existence.

Is ball lighting just a strange form of energy? Or is it possibly paranormal? Or both? Read these true encounters before you make up your mind.


In the summer of 1974, Beverly J. and her mother were at their camp in Tionesta, Pennsylvania. A storm was brewing outside and the thick clouds turned day into night. "We were quite scared at the time," Beverly says. Her mother pulled the circuit breaker, as she always did during a storm. Just then they heard a loud suction noise. Suddenly a huge ball of lightning entered the room.

"[It was] two to three feet in diameter with a translucent center and blue glowing flames on the outer perimeter," she recalls. "It actually impaired our vision for some time. It made its way up to a religious picture, 'The Holy Family', that was on the wall. Extending out from behind the picture was a palm branch we received from church that year. The palm was burnt on the edges."

The phenomenon lasted for only five to ten seconds, Beverly estimates, and caused no damage to the contents inside the camp. "We noticed a sulfur-like smell at the time," she says. "We also noticed [small] blisters on the lower parts of our body. We headed outside to get some help at a nearby store. A man came back to check things out, and good thing he had rubber shoes on at the time or he would have been electrocuted. The well drillers who put in the pump forgot to put a bonding screw. My understanding this was the reason for the lightning striking the camp to begin with. This was the only explanation they could come up with at the time."


It was also stormy when Diane had a rather frightening experience with ball lighting. She was seven at the time and living with her family in Wonder Lake, Illinois. The wind was whipping up something fierce outside and there were tornado warnings on the news. "My brother, sister, and I were watching television when all of a sudden the television blew up in front of us!" Diane says. "It really scared us."

Diane's mother opened the front door to see what might be happening outside. A live electrical wire had been blown down by the storm and was laying on the ground. When the storm died down, the local police drove through the neighborhood, calling out to residents that the tornado had blown down several wires in the area and advised everyone to stay in their homes until the electric company had restored the power and all was safe.

About a hour and a half later, Diane went to take a look at their broken TV… when something strange came floating out of it. "A white, stark-looking light floated out of it and was coming my way," she remembers. She ran to tell her mother, who at first thought Diane was seeing things. But then mom saw it, too. Frightened by the strange light, she said, "I don't know what that is. Just get in a huddle in the middle of the room around me and do not try to grab for it."

The ball of lightning floated slowly – as if time itself had slowed down -- right over their heads. "Then it proceeded to go into a light [fixture], and we could see it going down through the wires and then blow up that light also," Diane says. "We just stood there amazed with wonder. Later on that day, we took a look at all the lights in the house and had to replace all the plugs and wires to them because they were all blown out."

Next page: Attacked by ball lightning

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