Curious Phenomena in Venezuala

Science Frontiers Online
Sourcebook Project

Curious Phenomena in Venezuala
By William R. Corliss
The description of a truly remarkable phenomenon recently appeared on Scientific American’s web page. It also surfaced in an article by G.D. Kaswell in the journal Infinite Energy. These re-appearances in the current literature of this well-known anecdote allow us to revisit it here. It is well worth repeating, even though many anomalists have had it in their collections for decades. (In fact we recorded it in 1974 in vol. G1 of Strange Phenomena.)

As you read the following quotation from an 1886 issue of Scientific American, remember that the event described occurred almost a decade before the discoveries of X-rays and radioactivity. Although ball lightning was recognized in 1886, the first UFO flap was still 70 years in the future!

The following brief account of a recent strange meteorological occurrence may be of interest to your readers as an addition to the list of electrical eccentricities:

During the night of the 24th of October last [1886], which was rainy and tempestuous, a family of nine persons, sleeping in a hut a few leagues from Maracaibo [Venezuela], were awakened by a loud humming noise and a vivid, dazzling light, which brilliantly illuminated the interior of the house.

The occupants, completely terror stricken, and believing, as they relate, that the end of the world had come, threw themselves on their knees and commenced to pray, but their devotions were almost immediately interrupted by violent vomitings, and extensive swellings commenced to appear in the upper part of their bodies, this being particularly noticeable about the face and lips.

It is to be noted that the brilliant light was not accompanied by a sensation of heat, although there was a smoky appearance and a peculiar smell. The next morning the swellings had subsided, leaving upon the face and body large black blotches. No special pain was felt until the ninth day, when the skin peeled off, and these blotches were transformed into virulent raw sores.

The hair of the head fell off upon the side which happened to be underneath when the phenomenon occurred, the same side of the body being, in all nine cases, the more seriously injured.

The remarkable part of the occurrence is that the house was uninjured, all the doors and windows being closed at the time.

No trace of lightning could afterward be observed in any part of the building, and all the sufferers unite in saying that there was no detonation, but only the loud humming already mentioned.

Another curious attendant circumstance is that the trees around the house showed no signs of injury until the ninth day, when they suddenly withered, almost simultaneously with the development of the sores upon the bodies of the occupants of the house.

This is perhaps a mere coincidence, but it is remarkable that the same susceptibility to electrical effects, with the same lapse of time, should be observed in both animal and vegetable organisms.

I have visited the sufferers, who are now in one of the hospitals of this city; and although their appearance is truly horrible, yet it is hoped that in no case will the injuries prove fatal.

(Signed: Warner Cowgill, U.S. Consulate, Maracaibo, Venezuela, November 17, 1886.)

(Cowgill, Warner; “Curious Phenomenonin Venezuala, Scientific American, 55:389, 1886.)

The article in Infinite Energy discusses in some depth the reality of ball lightning, the similarities to modern UFO reports, the reliability of anecdotes, and, especially, the nature of the physiological effects, which resemble, in some aspects, radiation sickness resulting from exposure to intense X-rays or nuclear devices.

It is also interesting that this anecdote, long-consigned to “fringe” publications, has now been resurrected in digital form by Scientific American, which is an establishment publication if there ever was one. Kaswell writes to this point as follows:

My purpose was (in part) to show that mainstream scientists in main-stream publications like Scientific American evaluate the largely anecdotal evidence for the relatively non-controversial ball lightning by a different and more lenient standard than that they reserve for the highly controversial UFO reports. The Maracaibo case illustrates this beautifully, precisely because the report has aspects similar to both phenomena.

(Kaswell, Gordon David; “Phenomenon in Venezuela: A Documented Case of Unexplained Radiation Exposure,” Infinite Energy, 6:33, no. 32, 2000. Journal address: P.O. Box 2816, Concord, NH 03302-2816.)

Comment. The conversion of science archives to digital form so that they can be accessed on the Web is shallow time-wise. The appearance of this 1886 item is an exception. Much old information is being excluded by this transformation of media. In effect, if not intent, it is like the destruction of the Mayan codices by the Spanish priests.

From Science Frontiers #132, NOV-DEC 2000. © 2000 William R. Corliss

10 thoughts on “Curious Phenomena in Venezuala

  1. Hi, cadxx

    The gulf of Maracaibo is in fact made up of 2 parts. A large gulf taking in
    the seawater from the atlantic Ocean and continued by a slightly smaller
    expanse of freshwater mixing with seawater.
    This expanse has an hexagonal shape as drawn on the 1st maps of the
    Conquistadors. We both know what that means.

    This entire zone is characterized by 3 important things:
    1- It is the one place in the world with the most lightnings!
    2- 1st grade Petrol lies flush to the surface.
    3- The ruins of a Maya-level type of civilization also lie a few feet under
    the water surface.

    The Chinese have worked hard at studying the plasma ball phenomenum
    in the atmosphere and have recently described extensively in a public
    report with images the mechanism, internals and the physics behind it.
    Western agencies won’t make it that far even though they know what’s
    going on…

    Thanks for this article, Yry


  2. to cadxx

    Excerpts from the Chinese report:
    – Existence of ultrastrong microwaves and abundantly hazardous electrons
    near the ground or aircraft.
    – Soil moisture and rainfall are favorable for the ball lightning formation.
    – The so-called leader burst closest to the ground produces the strongest x-rays.
    – Fields above critical electric field E c at the leader tip can accelerate thermal
    electrons to several keV … and undergo avalanche by secondary electron generation.
    in air … each leader step can produce 10 16 – 10 17 relativistic electrons.
    – … “When she brushed the ball away with her hand, the ring was burning into her
    finger.” Wooding calculated that this rapid heating would need a resonant microwave
    at 1GHz with an field of ~1MV/m, which agrees well with our [China’s] model.
    – etc…

    Cheers, Yry


    1. Yry, I found the link:

      Relativistic (light speed) electrons combined with standing waves is a contradiction.
      What is a microwave bubble? What is an electron bunch?

      “In this case, coherent transition radiation can be considered as the reflected wave of the bunch field from the medium surface.”

      The “bunch” now becomes a field and physics can’t define a field.
      A field is movement (vibration, wave) in the medium and we are not told what the medium is. It is not an entity in itself but a mode of the medium.

      During a lightening strike the air becomes super-heated and expands creating a semi vacuum. It’s the air returning that creates the boom.

      Microwaves are not radio waves they are from the part of the spectrum that deals with heat. I’m not sure if they have a magnetic component or not. Heat tends to destroy magnetism.

      My own opinion is that ball lightening is telluric in nature. Telluric currents do some strange things. Ball lightening has been reported as having intelligence.


  3. Hello, cadxx

    1- Thanks for these precisions I’ll bear in mind and act upon as well.
    As always: ‘Fields’…

    2- Last week and up to yesterday tuesday I’ve been denied access to
    your site in various ways: either whole 24 hours to all the site or impeding
    access to sub-pages now and then randomly ie. the sub-page would
    load up to the 428 or 431 kb mark and stop, saying “this site cannot be reached”.
    In December & January this also happened at a much lesser rate.
    Russian sites are also targeted more seriously since October last year.

    3- By the way, watch this amazing video about the construction of Egypt’s pyramids
    and see how this know how has had us all manipulated economically to this day. +2.30 hours, each second is amazing.
    You can get this video in english and also download it for free.

    Cheers, Yry


    1. Hi Yry sorry for the delay. I wanted to think about your number two message for a while. I contacted WordPress but as expected they were no help. They said it must be an ISP or a government that’s blocking. But that doesn’t explain why it’s not always there?
      This is no surprise by the way, I’ve had plenty of trouble in the past. That’s why I’m cadxx! The usual scenario is that they destroy my operating system. But I can get up and running again within an hour.
      As for number one, yes it’s fields again and the physicists don’t know what they are. They seem to have forgotten about their own history.
      Take care caddex


  4. Oops!!, I’ve just realized that I had already posted the link about
    the pyramids on your “Telluric Energy” paper.
    You’re free then to erase that 3rd paragraph from my last post above.
    Cheers, Yry


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.