Ancient History

Strange Rains of Creatures

There have been irregular reports of creatures raining from the sky since records were kept. Hundreds of witnesses have reported these events, and at least some scholars have attempted to collect these accounts. The study of this bizarre phenomena only really began in any serious way during the last two centuries. We now know that these wonderous events include insects, fish, live lizards, frogs and other small animals falling from the sky during rainstorms. How the heck can relatively large animals fall from our skies like raindrops?

If you have never seen it yourself, and not read any reports, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is simply an urban legend or tall tale more suited to the bar tales of a drunken sailor. However, the accounts are so numerous that it is not possible to simply dismiss them all or assume the witness were all delusional. Let’s take a quick look at a few counts and dive deeper into some possible explanations.

In 1873, residents of Kansas City experienced a rain of frogs. Researchers associated with Scientific American speculated that the cause must have been a tornado carrying the creatures along with it, yet, there were no swamps or other bodies of water in the area. In 1882, a very strange hail fell in Dubuque, Iowa, it contained frozen frogs. Scientists of the time theorised that perhaps small frogs were carried up into the atmosphere by a powerful updraft and then frozen into hail in the icy air high above the planet’s surface. Not a single person witnessed such an updraft with frogs being lifted into the sky.

In December 1857, a rare rain of lizards stunned the inhabitants of Montreal, the creatures were not flash frozen but alive and wriggling despite their, assumedly, considerable fall. Insects are also caught up in these strange weather systems at times, like the downpour of huge black which afflicted Winnipeg back in May 1895. It makes for a horrible image, imagine being caught outside without your umbrella? I am sure that more than one person ended up with a nervous breakdown as they rain for their home with their hair filled with writhing ants!

An artist records the downpour of fish in Singapour, 1861

Some rains can be more pleasing, at least if you happen to be a cat. It is said that the frog rain of August 4th, 1921 which fell on Calvary’s 11th Avenue provided quite a feat for the hungry local feline population.

Scientists range in their response to these stories, some take it seriously and offer explanations. Many academics are dubious of strange rains because the subject is often tied to other more paranormal claims, such as apports (unusual sudden manifestations) which instantly prompts a high degree of scepticism. However, there are several cases where scientists have witnessed the events for themselves.

On October 23rd, 1947, by synchronous good fortune (or perhaps something more strange) a respected biologist from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife was disturbed from his breakfast by a waitress informing him that fish were falling from the sky nearby. The scientist, A.D. Bajkov, made his way to Main Street, just a half-block from the restaurant, where he observed around one fish per square yard. There were so many dotted about that vehicles were inadvertently driving over them. Some of the fish had even landed on the roofs of houses, meaning they could not be from any simple spill. Bajkov collected examples from the street and out of gardens. Eventually, there was quite a large jar of fish specimens which were preserved and distributed for distribution to museums.

The most popular explanations for strange rains tend to involve tornados or whirlwinds which develop during some thunderstorms. These powerful swirling winds can approach incredible rotational speeds, creating a natural vacuum cleaner which sucks up anything below that is not heavy enough to resist the pull. If such a windstorm passes over water, whether out at sea or even a garden pond, it can potentially suck up a lot of water along with any organisms’ present. These storm cells may travel considerable distances, moving large amounts of seawater far inland, for example. Eventually, storms lose power and whatever they have picked up must come back down, usually being vast amounts of water. Might it not be that sometimes creatures come down with that rain?

There’s no shortage of academics with an opinion, but it comes with an additional mystery. In almost every incidence of reported animal rains, the witnesses state that only one type of organism, from a single species, has fallen to the earth. This is quite baffling, if an entire pond is sucked up we would expect to see fish, snails, crayfish, frogs and a range of small waterborne insects to fall either together or in short succession.

William Hayden Smith, a scientist at Washington University, argues that as a storm loses energy, any objects of similar size and weight would fall together. Mostly, we should expect the more substantial objects to fall first as a group, and then the smaller objects should follow a little later. While this may at first sound quite sensible, we must remember that there are many water creatures with overlapping proportions, for example, there are vast numbers of different frog and fish species of similar sizes.

Indeed, any of the tiny water organisms and insects should fall in a mixed soup together. Why do we never see that happen?

Even if a trout, frog and snail my fall in sequence, why is it that nobody reports a case where, during a storm, they witnessed first large and then smaller animals hitting the ground?

There is perhaps a very sensible mundane scientific explanation for strange rains of animals, but I don’t think we have cracked the mystery just yet.

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