May 01, 2020 I Nick Redfern

Lightning and the Weather: Secrets, Supernatural and Strangeness

As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes: "Lightning, the visible discharge of electricity that occurs when a region of a cloud acquires an excess electrical charge, either positive or negative, that is sufficient to break down the resistance of air." The description continues: "Lightning occurs when regions of excess positive and negative charge develop within the cloud. Typically, there is a large volume of positive charge in the upper regions of the cloud, a large negative charge in the center, and a small positive charge in the lower regions." With that said, it's now time to address the strange side of lightning. We might even call it the sinister side. We'll begin with the U.S. military.

It’s a little known fact that when the Air Force began its UFO investigations in the late 1940s, it quietly farmed out some of the work to companies that had pre-existing, working relationships with the military. As the now-declassified files of Project Grudge show, one program in particular was handed over to the Weather Bureau. The Air Force wanted the bureau’s staff to find out all that it could on a mysterious, rare, weather-based phenomenon. It is known as ball lightning. It all gets really intriguing: the Air Force wasn’t overly interested in the possibility that some UFOs encounters might have been caused by sightings of ball lightning. What the Air Force really wanted were answers to the following intriguing questions: could ball lightning be harnessed and controlled? And better still from the perspective of the military: could the phenomenon itself be weaponized?To this day, some of the data on the issue of militarizing ball lightning remains classified.

Like so many other villages in the ancient county of Devon, England, Widecombe-in-the-Moor has a curious history attached to it. On October 21, 1638, the village church, St. Pancras, was badly damaged by a lightning strike that killed four people and injured sixty-two. It transpires that there is far more than initially meets the eye with respect to this particular lightning strike. At the time of its occurrence, the clergyman was one George Lyde, who was born at Berry Pomeroy in 1601, and who was standing in the pulpit when the lightning struck. Fortunately, he narrowly avoided serious injury – if not death, even. Interestingly, although at the time the event was seen as the work of the Devil, there’s a school of thought that suggests the event was caused by ball-lightning. Indeed, the phenomenon that led to both death and severe injury in the church was said to have been provoked by nothing less than a "great ball of fire."

Ball lightning

An aged, 17th century document – written in distinct old English style, spelling and punctuation – says of the lightning strike: "Vpon Sunday the 21. of October last, In the Parish Church of Withycombe in Devonshire neare Dartmoores, fell in time of Divine Service a strange darkenesse, increasing more and more, so that the people there assembled could not see to reade in any booke, and suddenly in a fearefull and lamentable manner, a mighty thundering was heard...the ratling whereof did answer much like unto the sound and report of many great Cannons, and terrible strange lightening therewith, greatly amazing and astonishing those that heard and saw it, the darkenesse increasing yet more, till they could not (in the interim) see one another; the extraordinarie lightning came into the Church so flaming, that the whole Church was presently filled with fire and smoke, the smell whereof was very loathsome, much like unto the sent of brimstone…some said they saw at first a great ball of fire come in at the window and passe thorough the Church, which so much affrighted the whole Congregation that the most part of them fell downe into their seates, and some upon their knees, some on their faces, and some one upon another, with a great cry of burning and scalding, they all giving up themselves for dead."

Now, there is the matter of lightning and the Djinn. The Occult World say of the Djinn: "A Djinn (genii, ginn, jann, jinn, shayatin, shaytan) is in Arabic lore, a type of interfering spirit, often demonlike, but not equivalent to a Demon. As are the Greek Daimones, Djinn are self-propagating and can be either good or evil. They possess supernatural powers and can be conjured in magical rites to perform various tasks and services. A Djinn appears as a wish-granting 'genie' in many Arabic folktales such as those in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. In pre-Islamic lore, the Djinn are malicious, are born of smokeless fire, and are not immortal. They live with other supernatural beings in the Kaf, a mythical range of emerald mountains that encircles the earth. They like to roam the deserts and wilderness. They are usually invisible but have the power to shapeshift to any form, be it insect, other animal, or human."

All of this brings us to a good friend of mine, Buffy Clary, who has a deep interest in the Djinn phenomenon. Midway through July 2014, Buffy borrowed from me my copy of The Vengeful Djinn. It's an excellent study on the subject, written by the late Rosemary Ellen Guiley. Over the course of two days: (A) my apartment was hit by lightning and I very nearly ended up fried; and (B) Buffy was hit by lightning! Things were hardly over, though. On July 23, 2016, matters heated up again. As I noted in my 2017 book, The Black Diary: "It all began when Mark Henry asked me to come on his show – also to talk about the Women in Black and their male counterparts. All was going well until I brought up the matter of how both the MIB and the WIB were able to affect telephones. As has happened on so many other occasions, within about two minutes, the line went dead. Zero. Nothing. Nada. That is, until around five or six minutes later, when Mark was finally able to reestablish the connection. As was the case with so many hosts, Mark had never before experienced such a level of weirdness, and bizarre technical issues, as he had when I brought up the matter of phone interference.

"Roughly twenty minutes later, the show was over. The high-strangeness, however, was not. Only a couple of minutes after Mark’s show finished, Buffy Clary messaged me on my cell: she had just been struck by lightning. Again. For the second time. She was sitting in her yard when an almighty lightning bolt hit the big tree that dominates the yard, violently splitting it almost in two. As for Buffy herself, given that she was only around fifteen feet away at the time, she was shocked, felt tingly, weird, and very unwell. I suggested that she get someone to take her to the local emergency room – as in right now. She made it there, on her own, but couldn’t get seen to for hours – despite shakily explaining to the staff what had just happened – and so she decided to head back home. It was two whole days before she felt herself again. Who can blame her for moving house not long afterwards? Not me, that’s for sure." I should stress that Buffy had been digging into the world of the Djinn again.

Nick Redfern
Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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