Top 10 Earth Mysteries
From animals encased in stone to
unexplained hums to perplexing
By Stephen Wagner
Saturday August 12, 2006
The Earth is a mysterious place. There is much going on around us
every day that goes unexplained. For all our advanced technology and
scientific understanding, there are events that occur, more or less,
on a regular basis for which (as yet) we have no answers. Here is a
list, in no particular order, of 10 of the most perplexing,
documented phenomena that have baffled us for years - in some cases,
decades and much longer.
01. Animals Encased in Stone
In 1821, Tilloch's Philosophical Magazine carried an unusual item
about a stone mason named David Virtue who made an astonishing
discovery while working on a large chunk of rock that had come from
about 22 feet below the surface. Upon breaking it open "he found a
lizard embedded in the stone. It was coiled up in a round cavity of
its own form, being an exact impression of the animal.
It was about an inch and a quarter long, of a brownish yellow color,
and had a round head, with bright sparkling projecting eyes. It was
apparently dead, but after being about five minutes exposed to the
air it showed signs of life. It soon ran about with much celerity."
There are numerous documented accounts of such findings, mostly
involving frogs, toads or lizards. Most often the animals come out
alive. And very often there is an imprint of their skin or shape on
the cavity in which they are entombed. And this raises a number of
interesting questions: How could the animal have gotten in there and
survived? How did rock - which geology tells us takes hundreds if not
thousands of years to form - take shape around the animal? How long
could the animal have been in there?
02. Cattle Mutilations
"We were passing down this road, and there was a thunderstorm a
coming up behind us. We smelled this animal as we come by. We came
back to check on it, and found it was mutilated. We examined it and
its sexual organs was taken out. Its eyes were taken out, and its
eyelashes were taken out. Well, there wasn't no predators. Couldn't
have been killed by a predator cause all the surgical work was done
by an expert..." Such was the report of rancher C.E. Potts in 1990.
The report is typical for the phenomenon, which began to be
documented in the early 1970s when reports came in from ranchers in
Minnesota and Kansas. The mutilations were like nothing they had ever
seen with their cattle; they seemed to have a surgical precision that
ruled out predators (whose work ranchers were quite familiar with).
The selectivity is also unusual: often only the eyes, tongue or
sexual organs have been removed, and quite often there is an
unexplained absence of blood from the scene. Theories to explain the
mutilations include Satanic cults, aliens, government experiments
(unmarked black helicopters are sometimes seen in the vicinity) and
bizarre diseases. As yet, however, no conclusive answers have ever
03. Unexplained Hums
Citizens in Britain and portions of the Southwestern U.S. have been
complaining about a maddening hum that just won't go away. And
researchers have been unable to pinpoint its source. Not everyone can
hear the low-pitched hum, and those who do say that it seems
artificial in nature - and is driving them crazy. In 1977, a British
newspaper received nearly 800 letters from people complaining of loss
of sleep, irritability, deteriorating health, inability to read or
study because of the incessant hum.
Most famous in the U.S. is the Taos Hum. There the annoyance was so
acute for the "hearers" in Taos, New Mexico that they banded together
in 1993 and petitioned Congress to investigate and help them find the
source of the noise. No conclusive causes were discovered.
One prevailing theory holds that the hum is created by a military
communications system used to contact submarines.
04. Ball Lightning
In January 1984, ball lightning measuring about four inches in
diameter entered a Russian passenger aircraft and, according to the
Russian news release, "flew above the heads of the stunned
passengers. In the tail section of the airliner, it divided into two
glowing crescents which then joined together again and left the plane
almost noiselessly." The ball lightning left two holes in the plane.
Ball lightning is another natural phenomena for which science has yet
to come up with a full explanation. The problem for scientists is
that the manifestation of the phenomenon is so rare that it is almost
impossible to study. Attempts have been made to recreate it
artificially in the laboratory, but an actual specimen of naturally
occurring ball lightning has yet to be captured for study. This may
be impossible since the phenomenon is fleeting - floating about for
awhile and then fading away or exploding with a loud pop.
What makes ball lighting so fascinating and puzzling is its strange
"behavior." Witnesses have said that it moves about as if with a kind
of intelligence, following patterns on walls or furniture, and
seeming to avoid obstacles. More mysterious still is its ability to
pass through solid objects. Sometimes it leaves holes, as with the
airliner above, but it has also been seen to pass through window
glass and even walls without even leaving a mark.
This might be a phenomenon related to ball lightning... then again it
might not be. No one really knows what the many "spooklights"
reported around the world are caused by. And there are many. Most
famous, perhaps, are the Marfa Lights seen for generations near Marfa
in Western Texas. The lights appear almost nightly and can be seen at
a distance from Highway 90. Yet when investigators try to approach
the lights, nothing can be seen.
Other spooklights include: The Tri-State Spooklight near the borders
of Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri; the Brown Mountain Lights near
Morganton, North Carolina; the Gurdon Light near Gurdon, Arkansas;
the Cemetery Lights of Silver Cliff Colorado; the Hebron Light in
Maryland; the Hornet Spook Light in Southwest Missouri; and the
Peakland Spooklights in Britain.
There are many unproved theories, of course, including alien
activity, mirages, ghosts (usually headless railroad workers), and
ball lightning induced by tectonic stresses in rocks.
06. Weird Clouds
Clouds are fluffy, benign masses of water vapor, right? Consider
this: In an otherwise clear September sky near Agen, France in 1814,
a small, white, spherical cloud appeared. It floated motionless for a
while before beginning to spin and head quickly southward. Witnesses
reported that deafening rumbling noises thundered from the cloud, and
then it suddenly exploded in a shower of rocks and stones. The cloud
then slowly faded away.
This is one case of extremely rare and highly unusual behavior from
clouds. Other documented reports tell of clouds that move against the
wind, clouds that rain insects or carry peculiar shadows. There is
even a story of a man from Oyster Bay, Long Island who was attacked
by a spitting cloud. It's difficult to come up with any kind of
rational explanations for these weird tales.
07. Fish Falls
One of the most recent examples of fish falling from the sky took
place the summer of 2000 in Ethiopia. A local newspaper reported:
"The unusual rain of fish, which dropped in millions from the air -
some dead and others still struggling - created panic among the
mostly religious farmers." This is just one of countless case studies
of rains of fish, frogs, periwinkles - even alligators - that have
been cataloged over the centuries, many by famed paranormal
researcher Charles Fort. (Such rains of creatures have been, in fact,
come to be known as "Fortean" activity.)
Most often these rains of animals are attributed to severe storms,
tornadoes, water spouts and related phenomena. Although the theory
has not yet been proved, it holds that strong winds pick up the fish
or frogs from bodies of water such as ponds, streams and lakes, carry
them aloft - sometimes for miles and miles - and then drop them over
The peculiar fact that challenges this theory is this: in most cases,
the rains are of one kind of animal only. It rains one species of
herring, for example, or a particular kind of frog. How can this be
explained? Could a powerful gust of wind be so discriminating? If the
storm scooped up water from a pond, wouldn't it rain all kinds of
things one finds in a pond - frogs, toads, fish, weeds, sticks and
probably beer cans?
08. Crop Circles
I hesitate to include crop circles because I'm nearly convinced that
they are all probably manmade. Yet, even though many groups of people
have come forward to admit that they have designed and created the
sometimes elaborate - and quite often beautiful - crop formations,
there remains a diehard faction of believers that insists that at
least some crop circles are caused by some unexplained phenomenon.
Crop circles have been reported in nearly every country on Earth. In
fact, according to Crop Circle Central, the only major countries that
have never reported formations are China and South Africa. Plain
round crop circles as we know them began to appear in abundance in
the 1970s. But then in 1990, we began to see far more intricate and
complex pictograms. Believers suggested they might be a form of
communication from extraterrestrials - or from the Earth itself.
Those who say they are not manmade point to several peculiarities
found in the affected crops: woven stalks, cellular changes in the
grain stalks, and strange phenomena experienced by researchers
examining the circles, such as unexplained equipment failures, sounds
and other physical effects.
09. The Tunguska Event
After 90 years, the explosive event at Tunguska, Siberia in 1908
remains one of the most puzzling natural disasters in recent history.
On June 30 of that year, a blazing fireball descended from the sky
and devastated an area about half the size of Rhode Island. Trees
were felled for miles in a radial pattern, fires burned for weeks and
the sound of its thunder could be heard at great distances. It's been
estimated that its explosive force was equal to more than 2,000
Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.
What it was that fell on Tunguska that fateful day is still a
mystery. Although for many years scientists thought it was probably a
meteor that exploded over the Siberian wilderness, today's best guess
is that it was probably a comet. The change in theory came about
because no meteor fragments could be found at the scene.
"Rods" are one of the most fascinating and intriguing Earth mysteries
of recent times. Discovered accidentally by filmmaker Jose Escamilla
in March of 1994, what he calls "rods" are strange flying things that
can only be seen on slowed-down film and videotape, and sometimes
captured in still photographs. Apparently, these things - whatever
they are - move too quickly to be seen with the naked eye. Escamilla
first noticed them in film footage he had taken in Midway, New
Mexico, and he (along with others) have since filmed and taped them
in several other locations.
According to Escamilla's own definition, rods are "cigar or
cylindrical shaped objects that travel at high velocities barely
visible with the naked eye. They appear to be alive as they move
through the air like fish swim in the sea. They appear to have fins
or appendages along the torso and the torsos bend as they travel."
Escamilla has several film clips and stills of the creatures on his
The rods measure from just a few inches to several feet in length and
there seem to be a few varieties with different kinds of appendages.
They have been spotted and recorded in Mexico, Arizona, Indiana,
California, South Dakota, Connecticut and even Sweden. Some have even
been seen underwater. Are they some unknown species of animal? If so,
why has no one ever seen these creatures at rest?
Sooner or later we are going to have a fuller understanding of all of
these mysterious phenomena, but for now they remain unexplained.
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