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Earth Lights

2 March 2014


Excellent piece on Earth Light at www.thunderbolts.info/wp/2014/02/28/earth-lights/ … which is largely about research by Dr Friedemann Freund, who wrote an article, 'Rocks that Crackle and Sparkle and Glow: strange pre-earthquake phenomena' for the Journal of Scientific Exploration.

Research into Earth Lights goes back further than Freund, however, and I have a couple of books at home by Paul Devereux that explore the issue, which are UK orientated to a large extent. These are (1) Earth Lights, and (2) Earth Lights Revelation, Blandford:1989. There was also a Smithsonian post on this subject, under the heading of 'Surprising Science' at http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/2014/01/why-do-lights-sometimes-appear-i… … which also concerns Freund's work. If you go on to the Thunderbolts web site you will find a forum post on this subject too – and has cropped up several times over the years. In Earth Lights, Devereux (page 170) mentions Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire (not far from where my father and grandfather grew up) where the igneous rock has been fractured and faulted and where it outcrops. There is not much of a forest there nowadays but there is a long record of earthquakes and tremors here. In 1957 an earthquake with an epicentre on Charnwood Forest caused structural damage to buildings in eleven surrounding counties. The record of earthquakes here goes back to 1580 (documented officially, and before that by other means). In 1659 Sir George Booth (of fame) described a curious incident at Markfield (a village surrounding a huge quarry). The mark in the field in the name was actually a standing stone which suggests the strange history of Earth Lights may have a very old pedigree in this area. Anyway, in 1659 'extraordinary flashes of lightning broke form angry looking clouds accompanied by terrible claps of thunder'. This went on for about an hour according to Booth, but there was no rain. Instead, there was 'a most black and dreadful storm of hail but instead of hailstones there fell rattling down from the air halberts, swords and daggers; which were found to be of the same nature as the hailstones and after a while both melted away' but shortly after this was followed by crackles and bangs as if muskets 'in repeated volleys, did discharge form their cholerick errands' and flying through the air were 'prodigious eruptions of fire' and these came so low as to destroy houses and kilns and uproot large trees. Eventually, this incredible geophysical display 'was seen by all to take its course up the hill where it vanished away'. From the crackles in the atmosphere and the curious lightning and fiery discharges we can be sure that an exception atmospherical electrical event occurred (according to Devereux). As for the shaped ice, in forms meaningful to the people of the day, we can only speculate. I might add to this that we are talking about the 17th century AD, during the heart of the Little Ice Age, which was associated with a lot of strange phenomena from meteor showers and exploding bolides to the appearance of great comets in the sky. There is no reason why this should not have also included Earth Lights associated with earthquakes – and various other atmospheric phenomena which have rarely been seen in the last couple of hundred years.

The interesting thing here is that if it had not been for the status of George Booth (and his title) no more would have been heard and it would all have been put down to the imaginings of some supersticious quarrymen in a Leicestershire village. Another interesting thing about the Markfield incident is that it gave rise to a religious interpretation, and a leg-up to non-conformist worship.

In 1715, the vicar of Shepshed, also on Charnwood, recorded unusual aurorae in the sky, which was said to look like 'a great house on fire at a distance'. More and more aurorae occurred after this, described as 'spiral streams or columns' and they displayed 'strong vibrations or dartings'. It might be thought these were normal aurorae, like those seen just this week over central England, but the vicar's diary says they were visible over all parts of the heavens, in every season and for a nine year period of time. That is fantastic. What was going on? What is obvious is that there were exception electro-magnetic conditions manifesting in the skies above Charnwood Forest.

The archives are peppered with accounts of odd meteors and balls of lightning, Devereux continues, and some of these were responsible for damaging churches or even destroying them altogether, by fiery tempest. Going way back into history we may note that Leicestershire is associated with King Lear. According to Devereux, Robert Graves identified Lear with Celtic Lyr, Janus, and with the oak tree (the tree of Zeus and various other thunder gods).

The 17th century was a period of atmospheric abnormalities which included periodic heavy meteor fluxes, the appearance of several comets in single years, and on top of that all manner of strange atmospheric phenomena (as described above). It also included the Civil War period (in England) and the Scottish Coventanters and their dispute with the Crown (in Scotland) and an outbreak of rebellion in Ireland (no doubt spurred on by the strange things happening in the sky). The 17th century, on average, was a cold period of time. Climate sceptics and climate scientists alike have seized on the lack of sun spot activity as the cause of the cold weather – but there appear to be a direct link with what was going on in the atmosphere. It is now recognised that when the Sun is in a period of reduced sun spot numbers those sun spots that do occur affect the Earth more intensely – and therefore a link with the Sun remains, responsible for the electro-magnetic effects. The heavy meteor showers of the century may have produced enough dust to create an opaque sky (dust trapped in the atmosphere) that would have impeded the Sun in its ability to warm the surface of the Earth as is its want. This of course explains why in some decades temperatures were normal and in other periods it was extremely cold, or wet – or both. The jet stream must also have been behaving badly.

Another area of Britain associated with Earth Lights is in Wales, around Lake Bala. A good deal of quarrying, for slate used in roof tiles, took place in this area in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1974, an earthquake or tremor was recorded with an epicentre on the Bala fault, at Bwrdd Arthur (Arthur's Table) a mountain in the Berwyns. An explosion was heard at the same time as the tremor and first reports were of a meteor crash landing in a remote spot – but it was accompanied by multi coloured balls of light seen as far south as the Bristol Channel. Some reports claimed a bright fireball was seen over various parts of Britain, denoting a meteor, but red balls of light encircled Arthur's Table. No evidence of a meteor was ever found in spite of a search by locals directed by the police. However, Arthur's Table has on its flanks a stone circle, Moel Ty Uchaf, so does the area have a history of electro-magnetic phenomena associated with the fault.

In 'Earth Lights Revelation' (page 64-68) Devereux describes some strange goings on associated with that part of Wales west of Bala, the area around Barmouth and Toywyn. In the early years of the 20th century there was a great religious revival in Wales and chapel culture was reinvigorated. Just as non-conformism thrived in the 17th century, groups such as the Quakers, Baptists, and Congregationists (in England), the Welsh had their own version – but events around 1904-5 appear to have inspired a renewed outbreak of chapel worship that produced a body of intense preachers that went on to expand their message to various other parts of Britain. The sudden outbreak of revivals has always been something of a mystery, as it requires a catalyst. This occurred with John Wesley in the 18th century, just as much as any other one, but the Welsh have preserved some aspects of their revival, a spark that inspired the rhetoric that followed. The Welsh have also turned the tale into a story line for modern tourists, and this revolves around Mary Jones. Lights appeared in the form of spheres and columns over a quite wide area from Barmouth southwards and eastwards and again the beginning of this phenomenon also involved aurorae seen as a great arch of light in the sky. This was followed by the Earth Lights and news of them got out to national news media who sent reporters down to Wales to see what was going on. These lights were compared by some with an enormous luminous star like body, intensely brilliant white. Elsewhere a red bright light was seen, within a foot of the ground. It even appeared in the centre of a village street. These lights became associated with Mary Jones and the revival that followed her sightings. The lights associated with her were not aurorae and could be seen skipping along the ground or hovering above the local chapel, or school house. These lights even appeared mischievous, as if stirring folk up. A reporter from the Daily Mail saw these lights, a ball of light above Egryn Chapel, and on or near the roadway. A Daily Mirror reporter saw lights on two occasions. He had been covering a meeting of Mary Jones at Bontddu. A clergyman hostile to revivalism also saw a fast moving light associated with Egryn Chapel. While these apparitions appear to resemble UFO phenomena of a later period we may note there was no cultural tie in as aeroplanes had yet to appear yet alone the idea of space ships manned by aliens. Mary Jones thought the lights were heaven sent .. and connected with the revival. The Guardian reporter of the time was a little more sensible than some of the modern types as he is reputed to have said, concerning the religious link, 'if, as is possible, the queer lights would have been seen at this time thourgh the revival had not come, the revival would certainly have come …' which appears to suggest the revival was already in progress prior the lights associated with Mary Jones. Some 40 miles inland from Barmouth three clergyman lay in wait one night and saw a large ball of fire (light) rise from the earth and suddenly burst luridly. They went on to see the lights on several more occasions.

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