Archive for Friday, March 22, 2013

100 years ago: Five-minute windstorm passes over Lawrence

March 22, 2013


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for March 22, 1913:

  • "A sixty mile wind passed over Lawrence yesterday evening shortly after 5:30 o'clock. The storm came up quite suddenly, spent itself and was over almost as quick. For five minutes, the indicators at K.U. showed a wind velocity of sixty-five miles an hour and then dropped down almost to normal. The damage done by this high wind was only slight in Lawrence, several trees being torn up and a few small buildings and porches injured. However, the storm was general over the state and much more severe in many places.... The only person to sustain injuries in the storm was Mrs. Jennie Adams, who lives at 747 Tennessee street. Mrs. Adams was walking north on Massachusetts street when the storm broke. The wind struck her and knocked her to the sidewalk. Mrs. Adams fell upon her left wrist and sustained a broken bone.... A porch at the Reynolds home, corner of Vermont and Berkley streets, was torn from its position and deposited on top of the house. A piece of lumber from here was hurled through a window at the Ecke Furniture store."
  • "While out driving last night, a horse driven by Ben Clawson ran away, upsetting the buggy and inflicting very painful but not serious injuries on both occupants of the buggy, Mr. Clawson and Miss Catherine Roller. When about in front of the post office one of the shafts fell down, frightening the horse which immediately started to run. Miss Roller jumped from the carriage and received a bad cut on the head. Mr. Clawson was thrown from the carriage near the Peerless garage and received painful injuries on his forehead, nose and face. The horse tore loose from the carriage, which was completely demolished, and dragging the broken shaft ran down New Jersey street. It has not been found as yet."
  • "Lake Land, Kan. -- Farmers and stockmen here are making up a purse to engage a scientist to investigate the 'ghost' light seen almost nightly here and is causing much alarm. R. H. Painter, Oren Van Deusen and H. N. Holdeman have observed the mysterious light. It first appears as a motor car light but when approached it rises from the ground and disappears. It has been seen most frequently in Sand Creek township."
  • "Easter Sunday this year comes unusually early, March 23. It has been almost a century since the date came this early. In 1818 Easter was observed on the twenty-second of the month. The date will not be this early at any time during the present century."


Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 2 months ago

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
- Shakespeare, in 'Hamlet'

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 2 months ago

With a bit more research, I found the definition of a 'Will-o'-the-wisp', which is not at all uncommon, and the ghostly lights are an exact definition of the lights described. In the United States, they are often called "spook-lights", "ghost-lights", or "orbs" by folklorists and paranormal enthusiasts.

I am reminded somewhat of a corposant, not often seen, which we now know as ball lightening, which is rarely seen. It is an electromagnetic phenomenon related to St. Elmo's Fire, which sailors in days of yore called "Saint Nicholas" or "Saint Peter's lights". Both were believed to be superstitions, since they were rarely seen by the general public, and could never be recreated in a lab.

It was believed that if the corposant (ball lightening) rose in the rigging of a ship, there was fair weather coming, but if it was coming down lower, there was a storm on the way.

It was not until Nikola Tesla created St. Elmo's Fire in 1899 while testing out a Tesla Coil at his laboratory in Colorado Springs that St. Elmo's fire was seen around the coil. It was said to have lit up the wings of butterflies with blue halos as they flew around. Then, there was an explanation for St. Elmo's Fire.

From Wikipedia, this is what is known about ball lightening:
Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt. Many of the early reports say that the ball eventually explodes, sometimes with fatal consequences, leaving behind the odor of sulfur.

Some things are simply not understood, and the "ghost lights" are one of them. They may be a form of ball lightening.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 2 months ago

There are a few locations with a mysterious light that fits the description given of a mysterious light, the most well known is the Joplin Spook Light, which has been observed by hundreds, or more likely thousands, of people for well over a century. This description from 1913 is very recent compared to the sightings of the Joplin Spook Light, which has been observed since apparently at least since the 1880s, and possibly many decades before that. It all depends upon the source you read. In any case, it's been consistently observed for a very, very long time.

There have been studies done, and there has never been any satisfactory explanation for it. One explanation given was "car lights," but there really weren't very many cars in the 1880s to have caused it.

You can go and read all day long on the web about the Joplin Spook Light (sometimes called the Joplin Ghost Light) if you Google it, and if you want to go see it, it's not likely to be a problem. Chances are good that if you put some effort into it, you'll be able to go look at it yourself. I've heard a description from an eyewitness. But, it wasn't very impressive, nor very frightening. Just, strange.

But, I doubt very much that seeing it will be an uplifting spiritual experience, or something that you will learn anything from.

Sarah St. John 5 years, 2 months ago

Well, as for the mysterious light, I'm guessing we can at least rule out swamp gas (will o' the wisp), unless there are some bogs or swamps in Meade County that I don't know about.....

And as for the windstorm, it was interesting to me (and a little amusing) that they said the damage was "only slight" but it sounds like it did at least as much damage as our 2006 microburst. (Maybe this one was a microburst too! I guess they didn't know about those back then? And it was followed just days later by some of the worst midwest weather in recorded history.... stay tuned....)

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 2 months ago

Nope, they didn't know about microbursts back then. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

"Their existence was first observed in 1974 by meteorologist T. Theodore Fujita."

It's amazing that even in our modern times, there is so much that we don't know. And yet, when you read this forum, there are so many posters that claim that they know, with absolute authority, the answer to the ultimate question without any evidence for their claim at all.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.