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Observations placeholder

Fort, Charles - The Book of the Damned - Falls of thunderstones



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Book of the Damned - Charles Fort

Peasants believed in meteorites.  Scientists excluded meteorites.
Peasants believe in "thunderstones."  Scientists exclude "thunderstones."
It is useless to argue that peasants are out in the fields, and that scientists are shut up in laboratories and lecture rooms. We cannot take for a real base that, as to phenomena with which they are more familiar, peasants are more likely to be right than are scientists.

If we are upon the verge of a new era, in which Exclusionism must be overthrown, it will avail thee not to call us base-born and frowsy peasants.  In our crude, bucolic way, we now offer an outrage upon common sense that we think will some day be an unquestioned commonplace:  That manufactured objects of stone and iron have fallen from the sky:  That they have been brought down from a state of suspension, in a region of inertness to this earth's attraction, by atmospheric disturbances.
The "thunderstone" is usually "a beautifully polished, wedge-shaped piece of greenstone," says a writer in the Cornhill Magazine, 50-517. It isn't: it's likely to be of almost any kind of stone, but we call attention to the skill with which some of them have been made. Of course this writer says it's all superstition. Otherwise he'd be one of us crude and simple sons of the soil.

Thunder Weapons,
The natives of Burma, China, Japan, according to Blinkenberg --not, of course, that Blinkenberg accepts one word of it--think that carved stone objects have fallen from the sky, because they think they have seen such objects fall from the sky. Blinkenberg gives many instances of the superstition of "thunderstones" which flourishes only where mentality is in a lamentable state—or universally.

In Malacca, Sumatra, and Java, natives say that stone axes have often been found under trees that have been struck by lightning.  Blinkenberg does not dispute this, but says it is coincidence: that the axes were of course upon the ground in the first place: that the natives jumped to the conclusion that these carved stones had fallen in or with lightning.

Such objects are called "thunderbolts" in these countries. They are called "thunderstones" in Moravia, Holland, Belgium, France, Cambodia, Sumatra, and Siberia. They're called "storm stones" in Lausitz; "sky arrows" in Slavonia; "thunder axes" in England and Scotland; "lightning stones" in Spain and Portugal; "sky axes" in Greece; "lightning flashes" in Brazil; "thunder teeth" in Amboina.

In Central Africa, it is said that often have wedge-shaped, highly polished objects of stone, described as "axes," been found sticking in trees that have been struck by lightning--or by what seemed to be lightning. The natives, rather like the unscientific persons of Memphis, Tenn., when they saw snakes after a storm, jumped to the conclusion that the "axes" had not always been sticking in the trees.

Livingstone (Last Journal, pages 83, 89, 442, 448) says that he had never heard of stone implements used by natives of Africa. A writer in the Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1877-308, says that there are a few. That they are said, by the natives, to have fallen in thunderstorms.

As to luminosity, it is my lamentable acceptance that bodies falling through this earth's atmosphere, if not warmed even, often fall with a brilliant light, looking like flashes of lightning.

 In Prussia, two stone axes were found in the trunks of trees, one under the bark.  (Blinkenberg, Thunder Weapons, p. 100.)  The finders jumped to the conclusion that the axes had fallen there.  Another stone ax--or wedge-shaped object of worked stone--said to have been found in a tree that had been struck by something that looked like lightning. (Thunder Weapon, p. 71.)  The finder jumped to the conclusion.

Story told by Blinkenberg, of a woman, who lived near Kulsbjaergene, Sweden, who found a flint near an old willow--"near her house." I emphasize "near her house" because that means familiar ground. The willow had been split by something. She jumped.

Cow killed by lightning, or by what looked like lightning (Isle of Sark, near Guernsey). The peasant who owned the cow dug up the ground at the  spot and found a small greenstone "ax." Blinkenberg says that he jumped to the conclusion that it was this object that had fallen luminously, killing the cow.

Tyler - Primitive Culture

As to beliefs by North American Indians, Tyler gives a list of references (Primitive Culture, 2-237). As to South American Indians--"Certain stone hatchets are said to have fallen from the heavens." (Jour. Amer. Folk Lore, 17-203.)

 Tallius, written in 1649:
"The naturalists say they are generated in the sky by fulgurous exhalation conglobed in a cloud by the circumfused humor."

Reliquary, 1867-208:
A flint ax found by a farmer, after a severe storm--described as a "fearful storm"--by a signal staff, which had been split by something. I should say that nearness to a signal staff may be considered familiar ground.  Whether he jumped, or arrived at the conclusion by a more leisurely process, the farmer thought that the flint object had fallen in the storm.

Sir John Evans – Stone Implements, p. 57
 says--with extraordinary reasoning powers, if he could never have thought such a thing with ordinary reasoning powers--that a flint object "proved to have been the bolt, by its peculiar smell when broken."

La Nature, 1892-2-381
The vast majority of "thunderstones" are described as "axes," but Meunier  tells of one that was in his possession; said to have fallen at Ghardia, Algeria, contrasting "profoundment" (pear-shaped) with the angular outlines of ordinary meteorites. The conventional explanation that it had been formed as a drop of molten matter from a larger body seems reasonable to me; but with less agreeableness I note its fall in a thunderstorm, the datum that turns the orthodox meteorologist pale with rage, or induces a slight elevation of his eyebrows, if you mention it to him.
Meunier tells of another "thunderstone" said to have fallen in North Africa.

Nature, 30-300:
That, May 27, 1884, at Tysnas, Norway, a meteorite had fallen: that the turf was torn up at the spot where the object had been supposed to have fallen; that two days later "a very peculiar stone" was found near by. The description is--"in shape and size very like the fourth part of a large Stilton cheese."

Jour. Inst. Jamaica, 2-4
As to greenstone, it is in the island of Jamaica, where the notion is general that axes of a hard greenstone fall from the sky--"during the rains." "They are of a stone nowhere else to be found in Jamaica." (Notes and Queries,  2-8-24.)

Proc. Asiatic Soc. Of Bengal, 1869-183
Description of the "thunderstones" of Burma : said to be of a kind of stone unlike any other found in Burma; called "thunderbolts" by the natives. I think there's a good deal of meaning in such expressions as "unlike any other found in Burma"--but that if they had said anything more definite, there would have been unpleasant consequences to writers in the 19th century.  More about the "thunderstones" of Burma, in the Proc. Soc. Antiq. Of London, 2-3-97. One of them, described as an "adze," was exhibited by Captain Duff, who wrote that there was no stone like it in its neighborhood.  Captain Duff writes of "the extremely soft nature of the stone, rendering it equally useless as an offensive or defensive weapon."

Nature, 34-53
A Malay, of "considerable social standing"--and one thing about our data is that, damned though they be, they do so often bring us into awful good company--who knew of a tree that had been struck, about a month before, by something in a thunderstorm. He searched among the roots of this tree and found a "thunderstone.

Notes and Queries, 2-8-92
a writer says that he had a "thunderstone," which he had brought from Jamaica. The description is of a wedge-shaped object; not of an ax:  "It shows no mark of having been attached to a handle."
Of ten "thunderstones," figured upon different pages in Blinkenberg's book, nine show no sign of ever having been attached to a handle: one is perforated.
In a report by Dr. C. Leemans, Director of the Leyden Museum of Antiquities, objects, said by the Japanese to have fallen from the sky, are alluded to throughout as "wedges." In the Archaeologic Journal, 11-118, in a paper upon the "thunderstones" of Java, the objects are called "wedges" and not "axes."

Rather miscellaneous now:
"Thunderstone" said to have fallen in London, April, 1876: weight about 8 pounds: no particulars as to shape (Timb's Year Book, 1877-246).
"Thunderstone" said to have fallen at Cardiff, Sept. 26, 1916 (London Times, Sept. 28, 1916). According to Nature, 98-95, it was coincidence; only a lightning flash had been seen.
Stone that fell in a storm, near St. Albans, England: accepted by the Museum of St. Albans; said, at the British Museum, not to be of "true meteoritic material." (Nature, 80-34.)

The source of the experience

Fort, Charles

Concepts, symbols and science items


Activities and commonsteps