OTHERSCIENCE STORIES: Scapegoats and Sky Monsters

Friday , 3, March 2017 11 Comments

Mrs. O’Leary left the lantern in the shed,
cow kicked it over, winked her eye and said-


One sultry night in October, about half past nine, a fire broke out in the city. It had been a long hot furnace of a summer, a drought the likes of which no one could remember. The place was as dry and ready as a box of matches.

The fire swept across huge swaths of the windy city, burning down for several days. A giant tornado of fire swirled above it and moved upwind, something ordinary tornadoes aren’t known for. Before it was all over, several hundred people had lost their lives. Yet, within just a few hours of its beginning, a scapegoat, an arsonist, had been located and identified. There was even a trial afterwards. The defendant was found guilty of course, as patsies always are.

There were many other mysteries about it. As they put the fire out in one building, another one far behind the fire line would suddenly burst into flames for no good reason. “Strange, fantastic fires of blue, red, and green played along the cornices of buildings.” Granite, iron and glass were found afterwards, melted and fused together into peculiar shapes. Ghostly flames the color of burning whiskey rose up from basement floors, just before a building would ignite.

“The huge stone and brick structures melted before the fierceness of the flames as a snow-flake melts and disappears in water, and almost as quickly. Six-story buildings would take fire and disappear for ever from sight in five minutes by the watch. . .”

Witnesses in many places reported huge “balloons of fire” or “balls of fire”, descending from the sky. When they touched the ground, they annihilated everything, sometimes with a flash of light. One said “The sky, which had been dark, burst into clouds of flame.” A rain of dust was reported in some places, hot sand or gravel in other places. Hundreds of tons of pig iron stacked in a yard by the river, two hundred feet from the nearest building, “melted and run, and is now in one large and nearly solid mass.”

“One peculiar thing I remember about the street car rails… Downtown… the rails had been pulled up… from the road bed and in some instances the ends were curled up several feet in the air.

But the Great Chicago Fire was by no means the most deadly fire in US history. In fact, it wasn’t even close to being the most deadly of the hundreds of fires that broke out across Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois on that very same night, about a half past nine.

Entire towns and farms were wiped off the map that night. Perhaps 2000 people died in Peshtigo, Wisconsin that night, the worst fire loss in US history. The largest forest fire in US history began: that night. These curious and alarming details have been all but lost to us while songs have been written about the scapegoat. Poor old Mrs. O’Leary’s cow would have had to have been a teleporting poltergeist to pull all that off. Either that or Mrs. O’Leary’s lantern was the size of three states.

History doesn’t send us the name of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. Maybe it was Lee Harvey Oswald or maybe Loki done it. It really doesn’t matter. The Trickster’s scapegoat has a thousand names and a thousand faces. He lives in a kaleidoscope hall of mirrors in our minds, putting us to bed with the security of certitude. But the scapegoat attends with his own dangers. He can misdirect and blind us to the real threats, monsters that walk the earth and dwell in the heavens.

“Much has been said of the intense heat of the fires which destroyed Peshtigo, Menekaune, Williamsonville, etc., but all that has been said can give the stranger but a faint conception of the reality… we have in our possession a copper cent taken from the pocket of a dead man in the Peshtigo Sugar Bush, which will illustrate our point. This cent has been partially fused, but still retains its round form, and the inscription upon it is legible. Others, in the same pocket, were partially melted, and yet the clothing and the body of the man were not even singed. We do not know in what way to account for this, unless, as is asserted by some, the tornado and fire were accompanied by electrical phenomena.”

There is a different story about what went down in the old town that night. In that alternate view, the city wasn’t merely nuked from orbit, it was subjected to an electro-kinetic bombardment that came from outer space. The legendary sky monster returns and black become the Sun’s beams.

If you seek to know, you may still find; sky-fallen relics of electric comet; off in the backwoods, out there past Chicago.

It sates itself on the life-blood; of fated men;
And the home of the gods; he reddens with gore;
Black become the Sun’s beams; in the summers that follow; weathers all treacherous.
Do you still seek to know? And what?

11 Comments
  • deuce says:

    Interesting stuff. More citations would be nice. Did Charles Fort ever look at these anomalies?

  • caleb says:

    Interesting. I assume that you are trying to introduce a story? Or a themed anthology?

    Makes me think of weird fiction concerned with fires: Blackwood’s Heath Fire, or Grabinski’s Vengeance of the Elementals. And of course, The Great Fire of 1666 was ever the rich source for the stories of fantastic and the macabre.
    Tho, I assume that what you’re introducing has more of a SF bent.
    I would like to know more indeed. (no, I am not referencing that goddamn movie, both it and the memes it spawned ought be burned with fire!)

  • icewater says:

    Well, that was certainly out of left field, but my interest is definitely piqued.

  • Forrest Bishop says:

    (Hurr durr… do not recog… run over to https://infogalactic.com/info/Charles_Fort )

    deuce- Ah, of course! Never read him, now a ~fan.

    “His work continues to inspire people…and has influenced some areas of science fiction.”

    Not seeing any analysis of what he calls the Chicago Fire in “The Book of the Damned” http://www.sacred-texts.com/fort/damn/index.htm . Curious, since there are lots of skyfall incidents in it. Surely he would have read Ignatius Donnelly?

    “By the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded… The power that has said to all these things that they are damned, is Dogmatic Science… The little Poindexters will caper, and freaks will distract attention, and the clowns will break the rhythm of the whole with their buffooneries.”

    caleb- Don’t know the movie ref. Anthology, maybe some day. Just a series of blog posts on this and that for now, some apparently similar to Fort in content and spirit, though with a century of advances. It’s not SF- for that you’ll want to read the mainstream, peer-reviewed journals. They do the science fiction masquerading as science. Here you’ll find something different.

    icewater- The links tell the rest of the story. Maybe I’ll do a followup on this piece later on. Lots of other things in the works, mostly from out there, past the fences of left field.

  • baduin says:

    This is Electric Universe thing.

    https://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060206chicagofire.htm

    https://infogalactic.com/info/Plasma_cosmology

    They are generally very interesting, and good at noticing electromagnetic phenomena with comets, rings of Saturn etc.

    They are also quite right that the official science generally prefers to dismiss everything not obviously linked to the current orthodoxy. (It could hardly be otherwise when scientists are serfs, or worse, day-labourers).

    However, their theories built on those observations are not very persuasive, to say the least.

    The counterarguments against comet theory of those fire from Wikipedia are hilarious:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Michigan_Fire

    “Others dispute this theory, arguing that meteorites in fact are cold to the touch when they reach the Earth’s surface, and there are no credible reports of any fire anywhere having been started by a meteorite”.

    Orthodox Fake Science at its best.

    • deuce says:

      Aristotle considered meteors and comets to be merely “atmospheric phenomena” within the crystal sphere of the Earth. This attitude persisted amongst scientists through the millennia — hence names like “aerolite” and “meteorite”. Comets were looked upon as basically harmless “dirty snowballs” by most Men With Screwdrivers until Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into Jupiter and put paid to that.

  • baduin says:

    If you like such things, read about vitrified forts:

    https://infogalactic.com/info/Vitrified_fort

    “Vitrified fort is the name given to certain crude stone enclosures whose walls have been subjected in a greater or lesser degree to the action of heat.[1] They are generally situated on hills offering strong defensive positions. Their form seems to have been determined by the contour of the flat summits which they enclose. The walls vary in size, a few being upwards of 12 feet (3.7 m) high, and are so broad that they present the appearance of embankments. Weak parts of the defence are strengthened by double or triple walls, and occasionally vast lines of ramparts, composed of large blocks of unhewn and unvitrified stones, envelop the vitrified centre at some distance from it. The walls themselves are termed vitrified ramparts.[2]

    No lime or cement has been found in any of these structures, all of them presenting the peculiarity of being more or less consolidated by the fusion of the rocks of which they are built. This fusion, which has been caused by the application of intense heat, is not equally complete in the various forts, or even in the walls of the same fort. In some cases the stones are only partially melted and calcined; in others their adjoining edges are fused so that they are firmly cemented together; in many instances pieces of rock are enveloped in a glassy enamel-like coating which binds them into a uniform whole; and at times, though rarely, the entire length of the wall presents one solid mass of vitreous substance.”

    A historical description of their origin can be found in Nennius

    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/nenius.asp

    Again Vortigern ignominiously flew from St. Germanus to the kingdom of the Dimetae, where, on the river Towy,* he built a castle, which he named Cair Guothergirn. The saint, as usual, followed him there, and with his clergy fasted and prayed to the Lord three days, and as many nights. On the third night, at the third hour, fire fell suddenly from heaven, and totally burned the castle. Vortigern, the daughter of Hengist, his other wives, and all the inhabitants, both men and women, miserably perished: such was the end of this unhappy king, as we find written in the life of St. Germanus.

  • john silence says:

    “The public has a distorted view of science because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths.
    In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.”
    ―Dyson

  • DmL says:

    Most exciting post I’ve read on this site. Followed all the links in post and comments. Utterly convincing! Love it!

  • DanH says:

    Eye witness account of the Peshtigo fire. Amazing and tagic reading;

    http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/WIReader/WER2002-0.html

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