"There are stories of coincidence and chance, of intersections and strange things told, and which is which and nobody knows; and we generally say, 'Well, if that was in a movie, I wouldn't believe it.'" - Magnolia
As mourners prepared for a funeral near Los Angeles in July, 1869, blood and flesh rained out of a clear sky for three minutes, blanketing two acres of a corn field. The flash ranged in size from small particles to eight-inch strips, and included what witnesses took to be pieces of kidneys, livers and hearts. Samples were taken to the Los Angeles News, whose editor wrote, in the August 3 edition, "That the meat fell, we cannot doubt. Even the parsons in the neighborhood are willing to vouch for that. Where it came from, we cannot even conjecture."
For an hour on an August day in 1963, an enormous amount of straw fell from clouds over Kent. "I looked up, and the sky was full of it," said a witness. A government meteorologist told Associated Press he was "mystified."
On September 23, 1973, tens of thousands of toads fell on Brignoles, France, during what was described as a "freak storm." Peculiarly, they were found to all be young toads.
Charles Fort loved this stuff. Until his death in 1932, he collected hundreds of accounts of anomalous sky falls of organic and inorganic matter. His theory, which according to Jerome Clarke's Unexplained he "cheerfully acknowledged to be preposterous," suggested that "under certain conditions of gravidic and electromagnetic strain in the solar system":
channels open through which material objects can reach the Earth from parts unknown, or can be transferred from one part of the Earth's surface to another.... Let us suppose that a channel opens between this Earth and another, where the surface is a few hundred feet, or a few thousand feet higher. Then things fall, from that Earth to this. Frogs, minding their own affairs in a pond, feel the bottom drop out....
A lot of strange things fall out of America's skies. Why some do is not so strange.
The small plane of Gary Caradori, returning to Nebraska with photographic evidence of an elite paedophile ring run out of the Franklin Credit Union.
The United Airlines jet carrying the wife of Watergate spook E Howard Hunt, as well as thousands of dollars in hush money, who had been threatening to "tell all." (Hunt immediately dropped his extortion of the White House and agreed to plead guilty.)
Paul Wellstone's King Air A100, during an election to decide control of the Senate, after having been the only Senator standing for election to challenge Cheney's war resolution, and just before his name would have been left on the ballot in the event of his death.
The company plane of Jake Horton, Vice President of Gulf Power, which exploded midair as he was en route to confront his Board over dubious accounting and illegal political payoffs. (According to Greg Palast, police received an anonymous call later that day: "You can stop investigating Gulf Power now.")
And we know many others; enough that we can speak confidently of pattern recognition. ("Keep away from small planes" has become our way of saying "Look after yourself.") And since we can describe a pattern - a pattern that repeats - we've left the Fortean realm of anomalies for that of assassination science, as James Fetzer has coined it. It's the coincidentalists who are the true heirs of Charles Fort, because they see no pattern, only anomalies. If they look up at all, they can't make sense of aircraft falling with expedience from the sky. They may as well be seeing toads or straw or meat.
I wonder what Fort would have made of this: in separate incidents last week, two helicopters fell into New York's East River.
The first helicopter, carrying sightseers, concerns us only as a precedent. (Accidents happen, but they also happen sometimes to be a template for attempted murder.) The second helicopter, however, carried "top executives of the financial services company MBNA Corp."
That's enough to merit attention most weeks. But the same week, MBNA made news when a "computer hacker" reportedly "accessed more than 40 million credit card accounts." This attack "was the latest in a series of security lapses affecting consumer information. The breach appears to be the largest yet involving financial data, said David Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center."
And like a helicopter in the East River, it doesn't begin or end there. Recent weeks have seen a bizarre rash of "security lapses" at commercial and credit institutions, with headlines like "Personal data on millions of Citigroup clients lost in transit" and "Fed bank insurer's worker data breached".
I don't know what it means, if anything. But I think only a fool could say with confidence that it means nothing.
I'm just feeling like a frog who was minding his own business in a pond, until suddenly, the bottom dropped out.
Look out below.