1. News & Issues

Discuss in my forum

The Mystery of Ball Lightning

Bizarre, personal encounters with the most puzzling of all weather phenomena.

By

Ball Lightning Illustration

Ball lighting has been known to enter through chimneys and fireplaces, windows and doors.

Much of what we call "paranormal" are facets or properties of the natural world that we do not yet understand. And although ball lighting is not usually considered a paranormal phenomenon - and is almost certainly a natural phenomenon - its mysterious nature has puzzled scientists and paranormal researchers alike for centuries.

There currently is no fully satisfactory or generally accepted scientific theory for ball lightning, mainly because it is so rare, and when it does occur it doesn't stay around long enough to be studied; it generally has a lifetime of less than five seconds. According to one researcher, "ball lightning is the name given to the mobile luminous spheres which have been observed during thunderstorms. Visual sightings are often accompanied by sound, odor, and permanent material damage." Many scientists still deny its existence, but there are so many eyewitness accounts of the phenomenon that it's difficult to deny its reality.

It's these personal encounters with ball lighting that have given it its mysterious reputation. Many eyewitnesses describe its movement or "behavior" as seemingly intelligent, as if it knows where it wants to go. When it enters houses, it often enters through doorways or windows and travels down hallways. But people tend to personify such peculiar events and it's ludicrous to think that the balls of light have any intelligence, but the anecdotes are no less intriguing.

Here are some fascinating first-hand accounts.

Unusual Experiences with Lighting includes many strange reports, including these two accounts:

  • In January 1984, ball lightning measuring about 4 inches in diameter entered a Russian passenger aircraft and, according to the Russian news release, "flew above the heads of the stunned passengers. In the tail section of the airliner, it divided into two glowing crescents which then joined together again and left the plane almost noiselessly." The ball lightning left two holes in the plane.
  • A "ball of sparks" about the size of a basketball entered a commercial aircraft, apparently through an engine airtake, moved into the fuselage, and proceeded to chase a flight attendant up and down the aisle. She was screaming as she tried to outrun the ball lightning. It dissipated quickly before striking her.

Glenn R. Frazier relates at incident at his grandfather's cottage in upstate Pennsylvania:

  • "I was sitting on a screened porch. I remember a brilliant flash of lightning and a large clap of thunder. Seconds later, my mother screamed. My grandfather and I turned to look in through the doorway and saw what looked like a ball of electricity coming down the hallway from the back door. It was about the size of a basketball and had an off-yellow kind of haze. It sounded like a large stream of water coming through a faucet. When it got to the kitchen area, it flickered and flashed a little brighter, and then was gone."

Bill Melfi was on vacation on a small farm in Tennessee when he had this experience:

  • "I saw two balls of light, one about three feet and the other about four feet in diameter. They were glowing with a blue-green light that was about as bright as a 50-watt bulb and translucent as a balloon. They moved side by side, the larger one leading. The movement was quick and somewhat zigzag. I chased after it with a stick in hand, but they were faster than me. They didn't break up, just disappeared in the woods."

Next page: More incredible experiences

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.