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No. 86: Mar-Apr 1993

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An Electrical Virtuoso

August 12, 1992. Conwy, Wales. Here is carefully observed case of ball lightning with rather spectacular side effects. Mrs. P. Stafford was looking through her front window:

"...when she saw what she first thought was a 'ball of white fire', larger than a football, about 20 to 30 feet from her, travelling horizontally at a constant height up her drive. There was very heavy rainfall, perhaps with some hail, but no lightning or thunder. The ball was seen against the background of other houses and her view of it was not interrupted. It was round, opaque and predominantly white with some yellow, and surrounded by a blue, irridescent halo. She said it was reminiscent of a meteor or comet and the light from it was like that from a fluorescent tube. It was bright enough to be clearly visible in daylight and appeared to be spinning or rotating. It hit the oak tree, perhaps 12 or 13 feet away, in Mrs. Wignall's front garden, with a terrific crack and explosion.

"The ball was in sight for about 10 to 15 seconds, and its appearance did not change until it struck the tree, whereupon it became smaller. It hit the trunk about half way up and split the bark and trunk, showering splinters of wood over a distance of about 50 yards. As it did so, it rolled down the tree and dispersed in flashes -- she said that there seemed to be 'waves of lightning' passing from it into the ground and radial sparks streaming out of it in all directions. Her husband, however, thought he saw the ball, now smaller in size, cross the lawn."

(Stenhoff, Mark; "Ball Lightning Reported in Conwy," Journal of Meteorology,U.K., 17:308, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #86, MAR-APR 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987