Strange Rains

Among the events of interest to those who first collected reports of paranormal phenomena, such as Charles Fort in the early twentieth century, were strange rains. Such people defined rains as anything unusual that fell from the sky, including animals of all sizes, but particularly water-dwelling creatures such as frogs, fish, and eels, as well as organic matter like algae, seeds, nuts, or berries. Inanimate objects such as stones, balls, jewellery beads, golf balls, pieces of pottery, coins, and religious crosses or similar artifacts—raining individually or in groups—are also included. In one highly unusual case, which took place on November 11, 1846, residents of Lowerville, New York, saw a bright light in the sky, saw something fall from it, and later found a weird jellylike material in a field. They decided that it had rained from the stars.

Sceptics dismiss such ideas, saying there are ordinary explanations for every case of raining animate and inanimate objects. Most cases involving small objects, they argue, are caused by people dropping things from private aeroplanes, while most instances of animals falling from the sky are caused by tornado-like winds that suck animals into the sky and then deposit them miles away. This does indeed appear to be the case when the animals fall to earth dead and frozen, which would suggest that they spent a significant amount of time at a high altitude. However, in many such cases the animals are alive when they hit the ground, showing no signs of having been in a whirlwind.

Consequently, some people theorize that the animals have not fallen as part of a weather event but have been accidentally dropped by large birds. Birds cannot account, though, for incidents in which a large number of animals have fallen at once. In such cases, some people have suggested that the animals did not rain down at all but were already on the ground, hidden by mud until a storm or other event uncovered them. But people who believe that strange rains have a paranormal cause—though they do not know what that cause might be—point out that in many cases multiple witnesses actually see the animals or objects falling.

For example, a well-documented shower of fish occurred during a clear day in Jelapur, India, on February 19, 1830; according to witnesses, many of the fish that rained down upon them were rotten and headless. In another case, on September 23, 1973, thousands of frogs rained down on Brignoles, France, during a thunderstorm.


  • Charles Fort


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning