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No. 36: Nov-Dec 1984

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Spiked Ball Lightning

December 3, 1979. Fleetwood, England.

"On the evening in question there was an intermittent thunderstorm with rain in heavy showers. My son Michael had just come in from the college and had gone into the room and was standing watching the T.V. The time would be a little before 6.00 p.m. I said something to the effect that his meal would be ready and he'd better wash his hands, so he turned the television off, although it remained plugged in... At this point a spherical object about six inches (15 cm) in diameter floated down the (sealed) chimney and into the room. It appeared to be rather like a soap bubble but was dull purple in colour covered or rather made up of a furry/spiky emission all over. The coating seemed to be about one inch (2.5 cm) thick with spikes of two inches here and there but changing all the time. It was quite dim and appeared to be semi-transparent, in so much as I could see through to the inside of the opposite side, which appeared quite smooth -- all the spikes pointing outwards from the surface. It appeared to me to be insubstantial and made no sound. It drifted between the two of us towards the television screen at about 30 inches (75 cm) from the floor, covering the six feet (2 m) in about four seconds. When about eight inches from the screen it disappeared (imploded?) with a fairly loud crack/pop sound leaving behind a smell as of an electrical discharge."

(Rowe, Michael W.; "Another Unusual Ball Lightning Incident," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 9:135, 1984.)

Reference. A long chapter on ball lightning (GLB) can be found in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. Ordering information here.

From Science Frontiers #36, NOV-DEC 1984. � 1984-2000 William R. Corliss