Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Mysteries of Ball Lightning

Ball lightning is a most amazing thing. This unexplained phenomena has defied great captures in photographs or video. The shots above appear to be ball lightning forming. As it is unpredictable and fleeting, it can be a very hard phenomenon to study.

Perhaps the most bizarre account of ball lightning comes from Whitcombe-in-the-Moor. 

(LINKOne early account was reported during the Great Thunderstorm at a church in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon, in England, on 21 October 1638. Four people died and approximately 60 were injured when, during a severe storm, an 8-foot (2.4 m) ball of fire was described as striking and entering the church, nearly destroying it. Large stones from the church walls were hurled into the ground and through large wooden beams. The ball of fire allegedly smashed the pews and many windows, and filled the church with a foul sulfurous odor and dark, thick smoke.

The ball of fire reportedly divided into two segments, one exiting through a window by smashing it open, the other disappearing somewhere inside the church. The explanation at the time, because of the fire and sulfur smell, was that the ball of fire was "the devil" or the "flames of hell". Later, some blamed the entire incident on two people who had been playing cards in the pew during the sermon, thereby incurring God's wrath.

Ball lightning can take jagged paths, sometimes hovering, seeming to give chase, and even exiting out doorways. Of course, that is not say there is any guiding intelligence involved, but that perhaps the pathways of least resistance are the obvious ones. Some report it passing through solid objects and others report it melting solid objects. There are also reports of the scent of sulfur.  

Some witnesses report it exploding and leaving tingling  sensations like a mild shock in the part of the body that was closest to the orb.

The mystery of ball lightning lingers. We hope to make gains in understanding the whys and hows of it, but in the mean time, witnesses are rare and their stories quite chilling.

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