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No. 34: Jul-Aug 1984

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Aggressive Ball Lightning

August 17, 1978. Caucasian Mountains, Russia. Victor Kavunenko and four other mountaineers were camped for the night at an altitude of 3900 meters. He reported as follows:

"I woke up with the strange feeling that a stranger had made his way into our tent. Thrusting my head out of the sleeping bag, I froze. A bright yellow blob was floating about one metre from the floor. It disappeared into Korovin's sleeping bag. The man screamed in pain. The ball jumped out and proceeded to circle over the other bags now hiding in one, now in another. When it burned a hole in mine I felt an unbearable pain, as if I were being burned by a welding machine, and blacked out. Regaining consciousness after a while, I saw the same yellow ball which, methodically observing a pattern that was known to it alone, kept diving into the bags, evoking desperate, heart-rendering (sic) howls from the victims. This indescribable horror repeated itself several times. When I came back to my senses for the fifth or sixth time, the ball was gone. I could not move my arms or legs and my body was burning as if it had turned into a ball of fire itself. In the hospital, where we were flown by helicopter, seven wounds were discovered on my body. They were worse than burns. Pieces of muscle were found to be torn out to the bone. The same happened to Shigin, Kaprov and Bashkirov. Oleg Korovin had been killed by the ball -- possibly because his bag had been on a rubber mattress, insulating it from the ground. The ball lightning did not touch a single metal object, injuring only people."

(Anonymous; "The Puzzle of Ball Lightning," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 9:112, 1984. Original source: Soviet Weekly, February 11, 1984.)

Comment. Ball lightning has often been called inquisitive, but this is one of the few reports where it deliberately (?) seemed to attack people. Some Russian English-language publications verge on the sensational, and one must always have some salt on hand.

From Science Frontiers #34, JUL-AUG 1984. � 1984-2000 William R. Corliss