In nineteenth-century England, one of the most prominent controversies related to paranormal phenomena was over whether it was possible for frogs and toads to become entombed in coal, stone, or rock yet remain alive, sometimes for years, without food or water. Some British scholars said that a belief in entombed frogs and toads, of which there were many stories throughout the English countryside, was mere superstition, but others said ample proof existed that such a phenomenon was real. This argument grew more heated during the Great Exhibition of London in 1862 because it displayed a frog and the lump of coal in which it had supposedly been found alive, with the inner wall of the coal appearing to have been molded around the frog. Several scientists said that this was impossible because the coal would have formed millions of years earlier under intense heat and pressure deep below the earth. Some members of the British public demanded that the exhibition remove the display. Others insisted it remain, saying they too had found frogs or toads entombed in rocks. As proof, they sent their frogs and coal lumps to the Natural History Museum for study—and the museum eventually received so many specimens that it did not know what to do with them all.
Long before this controversy erupted in England, however, frogs and toads had often been found entombed in various kinds of stone, usually at rock quarries and seen by numerous witnesses. The first written account of such a case involved a live toad found within a block of stone in a French quarry during the late sixteenth century. Occasionally, newts, snakes, or shellfish were reportedly found as well. In one case in 1818, Cambridge, England, geologist E.D. Clarke found several newts entombed in stone 275 feet (83.8m) beneath the surface of the earth. When exposed to sunlight, three of them started moving; two died shortly thereafter, but the third was so lively that Clarke put it in water, and it wriggled away. Clarke then examined the dead newts and decided they were unlike any existing on earth. He concluded that they were of an ancient, unknown species.
Given such occurrences, some scientists decided to investigate whether a frog, toad, or other small creature really could survive a long entombment. To this end, they devised various experiments in which toads were sealed within stone, without food or water, for varying periods of time. In most cases, the animals died, but occasionally they survived. For example, in 1771 a French naturalist known as Herissant entombed three toads in a plasterlined block of wood, and three years later he discovered they were still alive. He could come up with no explanation for this, and even today scientists cannot explain why frogs and toads are sometimes found entombed in stone, or how they manage to survive there for many years. Cases of mysterious frog and toad entombment continue to be reported in modern times.
During the early twentieth century, New York author Charles Fort, one of the best-known researchers into unusual phenomena, documented numerous cases in his books on mysterious events ignored by science. More recently, in 1982 in New Zealand, railroad construction workers broke into some rock at a ground depth of twelve feet (3.7m) and discovered two live frogs. But despite such reports, some skeptics say that frog and toad entombments do not really occur. Instead, they argue, these events are simply “tall tales,” created by tabloid journalists or by quarry or construction workers with a talent for embellishing stories.
- Charles Fort
- Strange Rains
- Mysteriously Entombed Frogs and Toads
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning