Much of what we call “paranormal” are facets or properties of the natural world that we do not yet understand. And although ball lighting is not usually considered a paranormal phenomenon – and is almost certainly a natural phenomenon – its mysterious nature has puzzled scientists and paranormal researchers alike for centuries.
There currently is no fully satisfactory or generally accepted scientific theory for ball lightning, mainly because it is so rare, and when it does occur it doesn’t stay around long enough to be studied; it generally has a lifetime of less than five seconds. According to one researcher, “ball lightning is the name given to the mobile luminous spheres which have been observed during thunderstorms. Visual sightings are often accompanied by sound, odor, and permanent material damage.” Many scientists still deny its existence, but there are so many eyewitness accounts of the phenomenon that it’s difficult to deny its reality.
It’s these personal encounters with ball lighting that have given it its mysterious reputation. Many eyewitnesses describe its movement or “behavior” as seemingly intelligent, as if it knows where it wants to go. When it enters houses, it often enters through doorways or windows and travels down hallways.
But people tend to personify such peculiar events and it’s ludicrous to think that the balls of light have any intelligence, but the anecdotes are no less intriguing.
Here are some fascinating first-hand accounts.
If you were to look outside your home during a thunderstorm and see a tall streetlamp glowing with blue flames, you might be tempted to call the fire department. Then you might notice that the streetlamp is on fire but isn’t actually burning — and the water from the fire hose isn’t putting out the flames. At this point, you might be about ready to call a priest, but that, like the call to the fire department, would be unnecessary. The phenomenon you’re witnessing is actually St. Elmo’s Fire. (Which has nothing to do with a 1980s coming-of-age film starring a young Emilio Estevez.)
St. Elmo’s Fire is a weather phenomenon involving a gap in electrical charge. It’s like lightning, but not quite. And while it has been mistaken for ball lightning, it’s not that, either — and it’s definitely not fire.
Early observers of the phenomenon, mostly sailors on high seas during thunderstorms, seem to have understood they weren’t looking at actual fire, because instead of abandoning ship …
Keep Reading: HowStuffWorks “What is St.Elmo’s Fire?”.
- “I Flamed Amazement”: The Physics of St. Elmo’s Fire (science.kqed.org)
- Terms of St. Elmo’s of Fire (childhoodrelived.com)